Graphic Business News

NCA, Telcos and customers • Who protects or cheats who

By: Charles Benoni Okine
Many queue to buy call credit but wonder how their credit is consumed

The Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications on behalf of its members – AirtelTigo, MTN and Vodafone— late last month notified its esteemed customers and the general public of tariff modifications following the implementation of the new tax laws.
It said the telcos would comply fully with Ghana’s laws and ensure the distinction between VAT and the new levies emanating from their separate origins and basis in law.
The statement by the telecoms chamber added that “the incidence of the two new levies will thus be on consumers and will result in the increase of the cost of telecommunication services.”

Again, “customers of telecommunication services will be notified by their service providers prior to any changes being made and the expected changes will take effect on 1st of November 2018.”

The tariffs
Between November 1 and now, the teclos have fully implemented the reviews.

From the various publications on their websites and that of the SMSs they sent to their customers, it has emerged that they have in some instances reduced some tariffs and increased others.
Much as this is in fulfilment of their obligation, the new tariffs beats the imagination of many customers.
Some of them randomly sampled over the weekend revealed that they did not understand the tarrif structur had been published.
A vendor of one of the telcos at Kwame Nkrumah Circle, Kwesi Minkah, could not explain the new tariffs when asked to do so as a vendor.
“Hmm. For our people, I can’t interpret what they publish oo”, he said laughing.

He added that all they (vendors) knew was that the tariffs had been increased but could not tell by how much and for what duration.
Another at Legon Junction said: “I sell cards but I cannot explain the nature of the new tariffs.”

From observation
From observation, it is obvious that none of the telcos charge per second as earlier advertised. The rates as they appear on the phone after each call is even more confusing because they do not publish the rates in the manner the ordinary person can understand and interpret.
For instance, a notice after a call appears like 00:00:29 followed by 0.0639GHC. Another reads 00:00:37 followed by 0.757GHC. Some of them have zones which they clearly indicate some percentage a caller will enjoy when the call is made, but nothing is affected in terms of the charge per the duration. This is difficult to read by even educated people, let alone illiterates.
Again, one user, Quinn Malm, described the rates charged as a fraud but was quick to add sadly that “I have no choice than to keep to the network I am on”.
“I have ported twice and I am back to my old network because nothing different worked where I escaped to”, she said.

Role of regulator
The concerns of customers of the various telcos are myriad but almost the same. From complaints about call drops to slow call set up time and stolen call credits, it is becoming increasingly obvious that the regulator seem unconcerned about the plight of telco subscribers. These concerns have raged for years and yet nothing concrete seem to be done about it.
Often, the regulator is seen in some instances,publishing hefty fines imposed on the telcos. Sadly, the money is kept for whatever reason while the customers who suffer continue to wallow in their pain.
Sometimes, the regulator directs the said telco found to have breached the regulations to offer poor services to compensate the customers.
When asked if, as a customer, he benefits from such mass free credit given by the telcos, Mr Adoboe Quinoo said: “I always prefer they send nothing because that is where they become even dangerous”.
According to him, the credit given abonus to compensate, runs faster or vanishes from the phone when it has not been used at all.
Regulator as revenue collector
Per the regulations of the NCA, it has the power to fine the telcos in breach of any rules governing the sector. However, the question remains as to why the regulator benefits and the customers do not.

The posture of the regulator seems to have become more of a revenue collector rather than one which is interested in dealing with the players to give their customers the best.
To date, none of the telcos is able to cover the entire country with its services although their licences mandate them to do so. Even in the cities, they tend to have so many gray areas where people do not have service.
One journalists near Adentan said “anytime I drive past the Aviation road, my line goes off until I complete that stretch. This is Accra, the capital city. It happens in many other areas and people complain but it falls on deaf ears. The excuse has been cable cuts or stolen cables but should that be the concern of the customer who pays for the service and not excuses.

Way forward
It behoves the NCA to up its game to ensure that it deals with the telcos in a manner that will ensure that they appropriately compensate their customers for redering poor services.
Customers also have to have a very fair idea about how they are charged for making calls. The charges are too disguised and that is not fair to them.
“The NCA cannot sit and watch us being cheated at all times”, the journalist said and added that “the money the telcos make from us by stealing our credits is alarming and we deserve action to stop this particularly at a time when the tariffs are up and we do not understand the nature of it”.
What we need to bare in mind is that, the kayayoo, hawkers and many in the lower income bracket rely on these services to enhance their business and they deserve better than a raw deal. — GB