June 7, 2014

UCC Issues Temporary Ban On Telecom Promotions

UCC Boss Godfrey Mutabazi
UCC Boss Godfrey Mutabazi

Uganda Communications Commission-UCC has slapped a temporary ban on new promotions by telecom companies until they improve their services.

Telecom companies have been bombarding sim card owners with text messages encouraging them to join various promotions to win cash, air time and other goodies.

However, on Friday, UCC which regulates the services of telecom companies issued a ban all new promotions until they improve their services.

Fred Ottunu, the UCC Acting Director Competition and Consumer Affairs said the ban was on any new promotions as a result of “numerous complaints from consumers.

He also said that the Quality of Service (QoS) evaluation conducted by UCC indicated “noncompliance by the telecoms on a number of parameters.” From the assessment of UCC, the promotions had led to a dip in the quality of voice calls, increased dropped calls and increased SMS from the telecoms among others.

The telecom companies are yet to respond to the ban. Airtel, MTN, UTL and Orange have all been running promotions. Meaning none of them is exempted from this ban. In March 2014, UCC held a dialogue between customers and the telecom companies. At the event, customers criticized telecoms for unsolicited SMS’s – mainly promotional texts – and also pinned the regulator for not acting on the poor services by telecoms.

The telecoms were evasive in their responses.  In response, Anthony Katamba, General Manager Legal and Corporate Affairs at MTN Uganda then blamed the poor services on limited support from the government yet they pay taxes and spend heavily on investment. He also said that promotions are mostly fair and that terms and conditions are always advertised. Uganda Consumer Protection Association, a consumer rights body, also petitioned the telecoms over unsolicited SMS, dropped calls and fraud through promotions.

According to Fred Ottunu, the current promotions will continue until they expire. “The ban will be lifted as soon as the telecoms have demonstrated compliance with associated standards set for such services and as well as adherence to the UCC guidelines on content services and application (text messaging),” Ottunu says.

This ban will come as a relief to some consumers who have been complaining to UCC.

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