If there’s one thing that we wish would get some attention and be fixed in Zimbabwe, it is the poor level of service that all of us mobile phone service consumers have to contend with while the 3 sisters (no, we are tempted to but we won’t refer to them as the 3 evil sisters) run with our money year in year out. It’s so bad subscribers have all but given up calling the ever busy call center numbers, subscribers have resigned to a reality of spam – shady or otherwise -, dropped calls, super expensive rates, fights & disconnections that trample on paying customers… we could go on and on.
So anyway, you can imagine our delight when POTRAZ called for and hosted a consultative workshop to gather from the different stakeholders what to put in a customer protection guidelines document. We ofcourse hope that the workshop was the start of some changes in the sector.
We attended the POTRAZ workshop in Harare and contributed what we could to the process. There was indeed active contribution from most of the people that attended. We list here some of the summary of issues and recommendations given:
- First, it was recommended that the consumer protection guidelines must be enforceable and legally binding on the operators (both licensed and unlicensed). The licensed type are the Internet Access Providers who are basically get a license to provide connectivity through owning and operating telecoms infrastructure. The unlicensed are the ISPs that buy from IAP and resell internet.
- That the Consumer Protection Bill (this) should be harmonized with the POTRAZ consumer protection guidelines.
- To have awareness programs that help telecoms consumers understand their rights and responsibilities so they know when the rights are violated and what options of actions they can take.
- That these consumer education programs should reach even the remote rural areas.
- Suggestion that marketing material by operators must not be in technical jargon, but clear for consumers to understand what’s being offered and the terms of such.
- There should be an annual consumer satisfaction survey which should be made available to the public via the internet.
- That these guidelines should cover the availability and accessibility of operator call centers and there.
- The need for number portability to make switching by consumers easier.
- The need to enforce the implementation of a device register by the operators so that stolen device can be tracked. It was mentioned though that challenges to implement this include, “fake Chinese phones” that can’t be registered.
- Suggestion for quarterly consumer protection forums so consumers can air their concerns.
You can download the consumer protection guidelines that they based the workshop on here. POTRAZ promised at the end of the workshop that the workshop report will be available in about two weeks… a week from now.
Here are a few more photos we took at the event: