29 November 2022

World Consumer Rights Day 2014: Fix Our Phone Rights

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One of the reasons we write is to tackle issues that affect consumers of mobile services in Zambia. Consequently, what we talk about affects more than 50% of the Zambian population. Therefore, we couldn’t be happier when the theme for this year’s World Consumer Rights Day 2014 (WCRD) was set to “Fix our phone rights!”

WCRD

The WCRD was established on 15 March 1983 to promote consumer rights around the world. It is an opportunity to promote the basic rights of all consumers, for demanding that those rights are respected and protected, and for protesting the market abuses and social injustices which undermine them. It marks the date in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy first outlined the definition of Consumer Rights. “Consumers by definition, include us all,” Kennedy said in 1962.

Zambia only started commemorating WCRD in 2008. This year, the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) has published a total of three phased articles in the Post Newspaper for public’s awareness sake I assume. On the other hand, the article appears to be addressing the Zambian telecoms indirectly. The major telecoms in Zambia are: Airtel Zambia, MTN Zambia, and Zamtel.

WCRDQ

The 5 basic phone rights being demanded under the 2014 theme are: to provide consumers with fair contracts explained in clear, complete and accessible language; to provide consumers with their money’s worth; to provide consumers with fair and transparent billing; to provide consumers with power over their own information and to listen and respond to consumer complaints. Dear reader, how powerful do you feel as a consumer right now?

Part III of the articles is particularly worrisome as the CCPC highlighted numerous concerns that they had in relation to mobile service providers’ attitude towards consumers. If the CCPC is concerned, what should the consumers feel?! Reassurance must  surely come from somewhere. If not the CCPC, then who? The language used in the article is also problematic. For example, “it is the Commission’s hope that every mobile service provider will realise the importance of honouring the five consumer rights and avoid the risk of being prosecuted as provided for in the law.” Perhaps the CCPC needs to learn a few lessons from ZICTA who don’t hope but rather play hardball.

Furthermore, the CCPC observed that most consumers still face the challenge of not being listened to by service providers when they have a complaint. This might be due to the fact that mobile service providers are receiving too many carrots as opposed to sticks. With language like “hope” being used for reprimand, what results do we expect to get? It has now become clear that not only was customer service a fail in the Airtel Money story, but consumer rights were also breached. Basic rule number 5 states that  mobile service providers are to provide consumers with power over their own information and to listen and respond to consumer complaints.

“In ending, the Commission would like to wish the Zambian consumers a very meaningful WCRD as they demand for good phone services, which is their right.” The article closed. Well thank you very much for the good wishes CCPC, however, we thought “consumers include us all”. Thus, shouldn’t the article be closing with, “… Zambian consumers… as WE demand for good phone services, which is OUR right.” ???

Image credit: Consumers Int’lBriingJIS