Thursday, 26 June 2014

Consumer Rights Day 15 March 2014

(First appeared in Consumer News Namibia Magazine March 2013)

World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) was established on 15 March 1983 to promote consumer rights around the world. For WCRD in 2014, consumer organisations around the world are highlighting the consumer issues that are undermining and frustrating the success of mobile phone services.

The international consumer body, Consumers International (CI) will be launching a new Consumer Agenda for Fair Mobile Services. The agenda sets out the issues that most effect consumers including the need for access to a reliable service, the security of their data and fair contracts and billing.

CI will submit the Agenda to the World Telecommunications Development Conference, held by the International Telecommunications Union, where they will be calling on phone regulators and companies to take action to stop these issues undermining the success of this new technology.

Consumer Agenda for Fair Mobile Services addresses the issues that affect mobile consumers across the world and Namibia is no exception. Some of the issues that we need to address globally are:
1.       Provide consumers with access to an affordable, reliable service
Consumers want to be able to have access to affordable mobile services in order to communicate and to access information. It is only reasonable that they then expect those services to be consistent and of a high quality without drop outs in service.

2.       Provide consumers with fair contracts explained in clear, complete and accessible language
Consumers often feel cheated by their mobile provider, either because of unfair contract terms and conditions or because they didn’t understand what they had signed. Telecom providers should always provide consumers with fair contracts with all relevant information explained clearly so that consumers can exercise their right to make informed choices.

3.       Provide consumers with fair and transparent billing
Consumers shouldn’t be billed for services they didn’t request. We demand fairness and transparency in our bills, and protection from billing fraud.

4.       Provide consumers with security and power over their own information
Telecoms providers and regulators alike must protect the personal data that consumers give up in order to use mobile services. Whilst giving consent to use personal data can enhance the experience of using a mobile phone, it can also compromise the consumer’s right to safety. Consumers must be able to set the terms of how this data is used.

5.       Listen and respond to consumer complaints
Telecom providers should have effective complaints systems and if consumers are not satisfied there should be redress mechanisms to ensure a fair outcome. We must be able to penalise providers for abusive and unjust business practices.

Conclusion – Namibia’s Consumer Programme
For 2014 the Namibia Consumer Protection Group (NCPG) will be meeting with the Communications Regulatory Authority of Namibia (CRAN), Telecom Namibia and MTC to discuss the Consumer Rights Charter and how the present laws and regulations might not be meeting the needs of the Namibian consumer. Issues to be addressed include
a.       the lack of progress on number portability (keeping your own number no matter who the service supplier is);
b.      data services not up to advertised standards; and
c.       complaint procedure (redress for service gaps).
Any consumer which wants to have more information about these and other consumer issues can contact email address: miltonlouw@gmail.com


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