REMARKS BY EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR OF UCC ON THE 8TH COMMUNICATIONS CONSUMER PARLIAMENT
I am pleased to welcome you all to this eighth annual Communications Consumer Parliament whose theme is: “Be Right, Know Your Rights”. I am much delighted by your eagerness to share experiences and challenges.
The Consumer Parliament has been a excellent brainstorming forum on possible solutions, and discuss potential collaboration in consumer protection in Uganda’s communications sector.
In 2014, the Uganda Communications Commission decided to hold this Consumer Parliament as part of activities to celebrate the annual World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD), which falls on March 15 of every year, aimed at mobilising citizen action all over the globe. So, this particular Parliament comes precisely 14 days after we commemorated the World Consumer Rights Day 2019 under the theme: “Trusted Smart Products”.
During the first two years, this event was held in Kampala. However, to ensure it is not a Kampala affair, we have organised the same in Fort Portal, Jinja, Gulu, Mbale and Mbarara. This is the sixth time we are holding this prestigious event outside Kampala.
The objectives of this Parliament include:
- Providing consumers with an opportunity to express their concerns about the theme;
- Enabling service providers of communication services to address and respond to consumer issues and concerns as required of them, and;
- Strengthening dialogue and elicit consumer views and input to regulatory policies and programmes.
One of the functions of the Commission, as the regulator of the communications sector in Uganda, is to promote and safeguard the interests of consumer and operators in regards to communications services and equipment in the industry.
Regulatory policy informs that one of the best ways to protect consumers is to empower them with adequate information and education. This must be supported by the provision of appropriate channels for redress and complaints handling.
The Commission has a consumer protection and empowerment policy which details regulatory measures in consumer protection. Therefore, holding the Consumer Parliament is our latest effort to improve our engagement with consumers.
Like we have been doing for the last five years, we are here to consult you on matters relating to improvement of the quality of service in Uganda, among other pertinent issues. During this Parliament, service providers and other stakeholders will note and respond to the issues raised by the Consumer Advocacy groups representing consumers.
In Uganda, when consumers of communications services encounter a problem in any aspect of service delivery, they have the option to raise a complaint with a service provider to get it fixed and any reason a customer remains dissatisfied, they can register a complaint with the regulator.
All licensed telecommunication providers have customer contact centres and can be reached Toll-Free to receive complaints from customers. Each operator is expected to handle and resolve 90% of all complaints received within 24 hours. This is usually the fastest way to address simple issues.
Alternatively, if a customer is not satisfied with the way the service provider handles their issue, they can choose to report the problem directly to the regulator. The Commission has a call centre dedicated to receiving complaints and consumers can call the regulator on a toll-free number: 0800 222 777.
As by the Commission’s client service charter, we promise to notify a complainant of the outcome of the complaint handling process within 30 days. This takes into consideration the necessary correspondences with the service providers and investigations were applicable.
Our Consumer Affairs division maintains a record of complaints received each day and the action taken and by whom. This record is audited internally annually to establish the level of performance and trends in complaints.
While we are proud of the progress made in consumer protection work over the last few years, we are aware and mindful of the need for continuous improvement. Having over 20 million mobile subscriptions nationwide communicates the amount of work we need to be doing to ensure that all enjoy communications.
Last year (2018), the Commission received over 2,000 (two thousand) queries and complaints through multiple channels including social media. Of these, 89% were successfully resolved to the satisfaction of the complainants. The top five issues complained about included; problems with SIM Card registration/swapping, mobile money services, cyber crime and fraud, incorrect billing, and poor quality of service.
However, we believe that there are many consumers out there who are not aware of how to get help when there is a problem with the service delivered to them or who do not have access to our various channels available for reporting problems. As such, the Commission has directed licensed service providers to carry a tag line “…is regulated by the Uganda Communications Commission” on advertisement, announcements and promotions to remind unsuspecting consumers and the general public of the supervisory role of the Commission.
I hope that the outcomes of the Consumer Parliament will assist in strengthening our regulatory frameworks for protecting consumers in a converged ICT sector while developing future strategies for consumer empowerment.
Let us discuss openly, frankly but objectively.