Mobile phone users have been urged to play their part in ensuring they are not ripped off by operators on growing suspicions that operators charge consumers as they please and capitalise on weak regulation.
Member of Parliament for Shoshong, Phillip Makgalemele, took the customer concerns with the Minister of Transport and Communications Nonofo Molefhi on Thursday through a parliamentary question.
Mobile phone companies are required by law to file their proposed mobile charges with the Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority for consideration and approval, Molefhi said.
“Customers are also encouraged to check their bills in order to ensure that they are charged using the approved tariff,” he advised.
BOCRA assess the proposed mobile phone charges and either approves or counter-proposes to ensure the charges are cost-oriented.
After approval of the charges, the Authority constantly monitors the operators to ensure adherence to the approved charges.
Molefhi added that mobile phone companies are in turn required to disclose the approved mobile phone charges to their customers.
Disclosure is done by presenting various packages and options for sale to the public and by information provided via the operators’ website, leaflets, brochures, newspapers and radio.
“Where a customer believes has not been charged in accordance with the approved tariff, he or she has the right to bring the matter to the attention of the service provider concerned,” he pointed out.
If the service provider does not satisfactorily resolve the query, then the customer escalates the query to BOCCRA.
Accordingly mobile phone companies are not allowed to charge for a call that has not been established either unanswered, busy or off.
However if a call is passed to the voice mail, the customer will be charged, Molefhi revealed.
Charged for unanswered calls, customers should take up the matter with the concerned mobile phone companies following their company complaints procedure and if the matter is not resolved it can be escalated to BOCRA.“This is the principle of operation, charging as well as the procedure of customer queries respectively,” Molefhi said.
He promised to assist should he be given information of instances where customers have been charged for unanswered calls, insisting to take the issue with the regulator to correct the anomaly.
As part of monitoring, the minister said BOCRA would conduct an audit of all operators billing platforms during this year to ensure that charging is done as per the approved tariffs.
Molefhi would not be drawn into discussing the huge disparities of charges between mobile phone companies resulting in enormous costs to consumers, choosing to say mobile phone market is competitive and mobile phone companies are expected to charge different prices for the benefit of the customer.
“Individual companies choose to differentiate themselves in view of pressure from competition and also how the company wishes to satisfy its customers. For postpaid contract services, the difference is mainly in the various packages which customers choose from,” he said.
It is therefore important that customers compare the various available options before they make decisions to choose one mobile phone company over the other.
“Information on mobile charges is available from mobile companies and therefore BOCRA encourages customers to shop around before settling for a service provider of their choice,” Molefhi said.
Ever since their advent, mobile phones have become the life blood of every individual with customers wary of their expenditure even as little as it could in hard economic times.
Botswana has three mobile phone operators namely beMOBILE, Mascom and Orange.