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Zambian telcos could face penalties

By , ITWeb’s Zambian correspondent.
Zambia , 02 Mar 2012

Zambian telcos could face penalties

Mobile telecommunications operators in Zambia that provide poor service could face stiffer penalties imposed by the Zambia Information and Communication Technology Authority (ZICTA), before the end of this year.

This follows the development of a code of conduct by ZICTA, the country`s telecom sector regulator, aimed at protecting customers from abuse by service providers. The code seeks to regulate all players in the ICT sector in order to ensure customers are not exploited anymore.

ZICTA acting manager for consumer protection, Edgar Mlauzi, says the country`s ICT Act empowers ZICTA to prepare a code of conduct for operators. The code, yet to be published, was arrived at after ZICTA`s consultation with service providers and members of the public last year, according to Mlauzi.

It followed numerous complaints from customers that service providers, especially mobile operators, were exploiting them by subjecting them to poor networks and services.

Dropped calls, network congestion, network outages, poor customer service, lack of confidentiality and a widespread lack of network availability are problems that people have with the operators, says Muyunda Ililonga, executive director of the Zambia Consumer Association, a consumer watchdog.

Ililonga believes “the code will help bring sanity in the telecommunication sector, as operators will be forced to improve their services for fear of being punished”.

Airtel Zambia MD Fayaz King said last month the company`s network was set to improve with a planned $1.5 billion investment by Airtel Africa in infrastructure and network upgrades in Zambia and other African countries in which it operates. Airtel Zambia customers staged several network boycotts last year over the company`s continued poor service provision.

However, Mlauzi says the code will require service providers to supply information that should include the availability of information for weighing alternatives, and protection from false and misleading claims in Zambia`s seven major languages.

“Services, rates and performance information such as rates, terms and conditions for all services, should be available in print and electronic.”

Additionally, Mlauzi says the code requires that service providers state the quality of service, initial connection and complaint resolution time.

Other consumer rights espoused by ZICTA, explains Mlauzi, include safety by protecting them from hazardous goods and services, as well as lawful personal privacy with no unauthorised access to conversations and personal information.

Last month, ZICTA directed Airtel Zambia to remove a complaint blocking machine from its call centre. According to Mlauzi, consumers should have the right to voice concerns which should be handled in a simple, expeditious administrative procedure.

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