Regulator will be advocate for consumers
Telecoms regulators plan to take a more active role in policing consumer complaints in an effort to improve standards across the industry.
Common customer complaints, such as excessive roaming charges on cellphones, loss of Internet coverage, and bad customer service, will all fall under the remit of a new deputy director of consumer affairs at the Information and Communication Technology Authority.
Alee Fa’Amoe, managing director of ICTA, said the new role was created to give consumers an avenue to have their concerns dealt with.
Ultimately, ICTA hopes to be able to publish performance data for its licensees and allow customers to compare how rival companies are performing in key areas such as call quality and customer service.
“Until now, we haven’t had a dedicated group of people focused on being advocates for consumers. This is about fulfilling the promise of competition,” said Mr. Fa’Amoe.
“I used to work in the industry. Customers thought it was bad then. It has gotten worse. It is imperative for this economy that we have first-class telecoms infrastructure.”
He said ICTA had always had a legal remit to follow up on customer complaints, but it was never something that had been actively encouraged. Until now.
He has reorganized the authority into two distinct sections – industry affairs and consumer affairs. ICTA also is now actively soliciting customer complaints through its website and by email at [email protected]
Mr. Fa’Amoe said one of the most common complaints from customers is difficulty in attempting to take their number with them when they change cellphone providers.
Excessive roaming charges are another frequent gripe. Mr. Fa’Amoe acknowledged that there is little local companies can do to control charges levied for roaming overseas by foreign communications companies. But he said the authority has a duty to clearly inform consumers about the likely charges and how to avoid them.
Glenn Daykin, who will take on the role of deputy director of consumer affairs, said ICTA will be able to use information from consumers about consistent problems to better regulate the industry.
“My new role is created to focus on providing consumers with a direct and efficient means to submit complaints to the ICT Authority about its licensees. The aim is also to allow for the authority to receive examples of problems experienced so that it can effectively regulate its licensees generally.”
He said it has been more than a decade since the information and communications technology market was liberalized.
“The initial years were more focused on encouraging competition and regulating licensees from an industry perspective. Even though these will continue to be areas that the authority will be concerned with, the authority also bears the responsibility of ensuring that the interests of consumers are protected.
“It is this balancing act that the ICTA as a regulator is focused on establishing,” he said.