Contamination Regulatory Authority should grow some teeth

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    Judge Mbadwa: This court should have been handling an application on the winding up of the University of Nyasaland’s Central Office after a decision was made to unbundle the institution. But that matter can wait, of course not for 10 years as others want to put it. This court will spare some time for that case next week because there is an urgent matter that has arisen.

    Mr Jonah Kapita of the Disgruntled Association of Consumers wants this court to act on the Malamya Contamination Regulatory Authority for not acting on poor services consumers are being subjected to at the hands of mobile phone service providers.

    Mr Kapita, why should this tribunal listen to you?

    Kapita: My Lord, consumers have been complaining about poor services from mobile phone service providers for ages now, yet there is Malamya Contamination Regulatory Authority, as mandated by an Act of Parliament, which should have been looking into this issue.

    My Lord, we are aware of the Section 4(2) (a) of the Communications Act, which empowers the institution to “Protect the interests of consumers, purchasers and other users of communication services in respect of the prices charged for the quality and variety of services provided and terminal equipment supplied.”

    But My Lord, we know that this organisation has not been doing that core function as mandated by law. By its own admission, it is now developing a cost model and pricing framework to “enable it analyse and assess market trends” following a study that was commissioned, really? What were they doing all these years?

    Meanwhile, My Lord, consumers are being given a raw deal by mobile service providers which, under the incomprehensible mantra of ‘terms and conditions apply’, are unknowingly being registered into some services where credit is deducted from them as soon as it is added.

    Cases of dropped calls are still rampant and Mose wa Lero should be turning in his grave to hear that something he complained about when he was treading on planet earth has not been sorted out yet.

    And there is an issue of exorbitant data charges and nonsensical data bundles being offered to consumers who are hoodwinked into believing that the bundles are cheap, when they are not.

    My Lord, why can’t the authority act on mobile phone service providers who penalise me for calling someone who belongs to a different network? Said differently, why should I be charged more for inter-network calls in my own country? If at all they are regulators, they should have noticed that this is an anomaly.

    I would not want to speculate, but my association has heard that the authority benefits from call drops and poor services because it fines the service providers; hence, it would rather support inefficiency to make a killing out of it. My Lord, you can decide whether that constitutes hearsay or something that has to be considered in my application.

    My Lord, this institution should stop being busy with supporting activities of ministers who misinform people and functions of the People’s Demagogic Party! That is not their core functions.

    They tell us that everyone has “the right to seek redress from their service provider when they are aggrieved by the actions or receive poor quality of service,” but what we want is action from them. If they can’t act, then this court should ensure that the mandate of the regulator changes to that of friends of service providers. Thanks My Lord.

    Mbadwa: I need time to scrutinise the submission of Mr Kapita, but one thing is clear that the Malamya Contamination Regulatory Authority is serving the interests of ‘buyers’ other than ‘growers’. n

    Original Article

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