By Solomon Lubambula
Unlike for other services, many people know little if any about their rights as mobile phone users, resulting into massive abuse of consumer rights for the telecommunication services in Uganda.
This was evident at this year’s World Consumer Rights day that focused on the services of telecoms under the theme “Fix our phone rights”.
Taking part in the first ever Telecom Consumer’s parliament organized by the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC)as part of the activities to mark the day, the Uganda Consumer Protection Association unveiled concerns of Mobile phone consumers.
The concerns of the mobile phone users mainly rotated around the right to Privacy, the users’ security and unfair charges.
The executive director Uganda Consumer Protection Association, Sam Watasa revealed that subscribers to Telecommunication networks in Uganda lose up to 500 Million US Dollars a year due to dropped calls, deceitful withdrawn of airtime, charges on unsolicited for messages among other fees.
Petitioning the Information Communication and Technology (ICT) minister Nyombi Tembo and the Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) on before of the Consumers, Watasa accused the service providers for neglecting their responsibilities which creates a poor relationship between them and the consumers.
“When you drop a call you actually pay for it, I can prove to you that, by giving you a bill that shows that dropped calls are charged, so how much we lose collectively as all consumers across all network have a figure of 500 million dollars, it may be on a higher side but ….we are losing money and we must get that money back”-Watasa demanded.
But officials from telecom companies went on the defensive saying that though call drop rates exist they don’t lead to such alarming losses. The service providers also noted that the Ugandan Market is making life hard as their infrastructure is always vandalized. However they maintain that they are working hard to rectify the problems raised.
With these challenges and concerns in the sector, the consumer is left with one option of waiting for action by the authorities as the ICT minister promised to work on the petition in conjunction with the regulator body Uganda Communication Commission.
“On quality of services, privacy and security of the services this is the major concern to all of us the policymakers, regulatory agencies, and ultimately you the consumers, that should be the focus for us as stakeholders to discuss and move the industry forward”-Nyombi.
The World Consumer Rights Day is an important occasion for mobilizing citizen action. It is the 31st World Consumer rights Day anniversary since this day was first observed in 1983.