On March 10, last year, Jeanne Mukashema’s SIM-card, out of the brew, stopped functioning prompting her to visit her service provider who did not help.
The resident of Rubavu District says she was told “her SIM-card had been swapped, apparently by another unknown person,” and therefore had lost over Rwf1 million which she had on her telecom banking account.
Like Mukashema, Judith Uwimana also lost Rwf1 million in similar scrupulous means where fraudsters either connived with people in telecom companies or find ways to claim ownership and swap SIM-cards of their targets before withdrawing all the money deposited on the SIM account.
Both Mukashema and Uwimana were compensated by the telecom service providers after the intervention of Rwanda Utility Regulatory Authority (RURA). Figures from consumer affairs unit indicates that between July 2015 and December 2016, it received nearly 4, 000 complaints from consumers over theft and negligence leading to loss of property, mainly against transporters, telecom service providers and water connections.
RURA through the responsible unit continues to monitor service providers on compliance with their obligations as per the issued license and other related laws and guidelines. “Through our consumer affairs unit, we were able to receive complaints through various communication channels and more than 80 percent of all the received complaints were amicably resolved reflecting the importance of the consumer’s protection unit. This also indicates the existing cooperation between RURA and service providers in addressing consumer complaints,” said Anthony Kulamba, the Head of Media and consumer affairs and RURA spokesperson.
“RURA receives complaints and information from individuals filing complaints at our office and via other channels such as hotline (3988), social networks, emails, and letters dropped at our office and all complaints are treated and resolved by engaging all concerned parties,” Kulamba said.
The majority of the complaints received between the periods of July 2015 up to June 2016 involved the transport sector, with 63 percent of the 3000 complaints lodged.
Complaints according to RURA officials were mainly related to the quality of service where passengers are dropped off before reaching their destination, increase in tariffs and lost luggage among other reported cases.
RURA is currently working with service providers to further streamline and enhance service delivery in all sectors.
Meanwhile, the ICT sector follows with 21% of the total complaints received within the same period where most of them were mainly related to quality of service, billing, and fraud via telecom banking systems, among other cases.
Unsolicited SMS, misleading information in some of the promotions and customer care service centres not responding properly to consumer queries were also cited as challenges affecting efficiency in terms of services delivery.
There is a challenge of people who are defrauded by criminals who manipulate them into believing that they won a lottery and as a prerequisite to collect their prize, the targeted individuals are required to first deposit a certain amount of money which they lose in the process.
“We work with all service providers and law enforcement agencies to track the criminals and in raising public awareness on IT-related crimes especially in e-banking and telecom banking systems to ensure that criminals are brought to justice and also victims are compensated,” Kulamba noted.
Meanwhile, consumer complaints in the sanitation sector revolve around contract terms that are not respected especially in collection and transport of solid waste by service providers.
In the water sector, for example, more than 80% of the complaints were related to water shortage and the remaining 20% were related to billing system.
The energy sector counted fewer complaints of about 4 per cent as most of them were focusing on power outages and unreliable power supply.
The main programme of the consumer affairs Unit, is to educate consumers so that they are able to claim their rights.
“And through various approaches and strategies we are sensitizing consumers on how they can hold accountable, service providers, across the country,” Kulamba said.
So far, the unit has conducted outreach programmes in at least 33 schools and consumer associations across the country, focusing on consumer rights.
The objective is ensuring improvement in the quality of service and creates public and industry awareness of the existing consumer rights.
“We also invite, collect public opinion and views on consumer matters while we provide a channel to address consumer issues and resolve disputes,” Kulamba said.