Sunday, February 5, 2023

Mobile phone operators to compensate customers for poor service – BOCRA

The Botswana Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) will in two months introduce new regulations that impel mobile phone service providers to compensate consumers for services that fall short of customer expectations.

The new rules which come into effect September will ensure mobile phone operators no longer fleece customers by charging them high-speed prices for slow internet service or by charging them for lost broadband or phone services due to outages or interruptions.

A document passed to the Sunday Standard revealed that under the new law mobile phone service providers will be expected to establish well-defined Service Level Agreements (SLAs) with consumers to ensure end to end QoS (Quality of Service).

A service-level agreement (SLA) is a contract between a service provider and its customers that documents what services the provider will furnish and defines the service standards the provider is obligated to meet.

BOCRA states that the SLAs shall state, among others, the following: Level of performance, the minimum level of service performance offered to the customer and not the average level to be achieved for all customers.

“If the minimum service level is not achieved, the compensation should at least be commensurate to the degree of failure” states BOCRA.  The service providers will be required to compensate customers  “automatically without requiring the customer to file for a claim.”

Until now, there hasn’t been any law stopping service providers from making customers pay for the period when there is a service outage.

In its latest draft guidelines on information, communication and technologies quality of service, the telecoms watchdog told mobile operators to improve quality of service.  The Authority indicated that it shall audit some or all the quality-of-service data and opt to use a third party to perform audits on behalf of the Authority.

BOCRA will also audit quality of experience based on customer satisfaction surveys undertaken by the Authority and vary the frequency of the audits, reporting areas and reporting periods that require auditing.

“The Authority shall take appropriate measures to enforce these Guidelines in conjunction with penalties as stipulated in the BOCRA Penalty Framework,” the Authority warned. Telecommunication companies were also informed that they will be expected to submit quality of service reports and  network performance raw data for the purpose of analysis and reports generation as may be required by BOCRA from time to time.

BOCRA will also carry out network monitoring, and validate the data against network performance data from the operators, monitor the adherence to quality-of-service measurements procedures and direct its officers or agents (third party) to carry out investigations on quality-of-Service measurements.

“The Authority or any person authorized in writing by the Authority may, upon furnishing reasonable notice, enter upon the premises of the licensee and request access to the network management servers for purposes of ascertaining compliance with these Guidelines,” the Authority says.

Mobile phone operators will also be expected to complete and maintain accurate records of compliance for each QoS (Quality of Service) parameter specified in such a manner and in such a format, as may be prescribed by the Authority from time to time.

BOCRA warned that it may, from time to time, either by order or by direction, specify uniform record keeping procedures and formats including guidelines on measurement methodology for various QoS parameters.

Also, the regulator may, if it considers it expedient to do so, at any time, direct any of its officers or employees or an agency appointed by the Authority to inspect the records or to get such records audited.

The Authority will publish, on print media or on the Authority’s website or any applicable digital platform, the Quality of Service/ Quality of Experience Report as may be decided by the Authority as follows:  the compliance reports of each quality of service and quality of experience parameter reported/submitted to it by the service providers under these guidelines.

BOCRA will also publish the results of the audit and assessment of the quality of service and quality of experience undertaken by the Authority or its authorized agent.

The Authority may request telecommunication companies to publish quality of service and quality of experience parameter information on their websites, or any digital platforms.

Operators shall publish on their websites, or any applicable digital platform, a Coverage Map showing their network coverage and network availability.

“Notwithstanding that no subscriber should experience service interruption and not be accorded prompt response, Interruptions affecting at least 5% of the operator’s subscriber base, or affect site(s) and disconnecting communities from network, must be considered critical and reported,” the latest guidelines state.

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