By Nelson Manneh
The Consumer Protection Consortium (CPC) has called on PURA to facilitate meeting of relevant stakeholders, to address ‘Corporate Thievery’ and expose possible areas of collaboration to safeguard the interests and rights of consumers in the interest of public health, safety, quality, corporate ethics and the law.
Mr. Alpha Ousman Jallow the President of the association said they held a press conference to respond to the current 4G bundle saga surrounding Africell, as the primary aim of the CPC is to promote, protect and safeguard the interests and welfare of all consumers in The Gambia.
“The CPC is cognizant of PURA’s resolve to safeguard consumer rights and welfare relating to utilities and appreciates PURA’s directive for Africell to process mandatory cash refunds to all subscribers that subscribed to the unlimited data package from the 1st January 2020 up to February 11th 2020,” he said.
Mr. Jallow alleged that the CPC is concerned that PURA took a unilateral decision to institute the aforementioned remedial measures without due consultation and mutual agreement with the affected parties (consumers and consumer associations).
The President of the CPC Association said prior to the saga, the CPC wrote initial communiques and met with Africell management to discuss issues raised by consumers regarding Africell’s placement of advertisements claiming that they have a nationwide 4G coverage when actually that was not the case.
“Letters were copied to PURA for notification and to solicit their investigations to facilitate a meeting and dialogue to solve the issue raised during consumers’ parliaments and specific ones highlighted in the CPC communiqués, but the CPC did not receive any response from either PURA or the service providers,” he noted.
Mr. Jallow said in light of the recent confirmation by PURA of market conduct by Africell, some affected consumers through the CPC have filed a case to prosecute Africell and will now resort to the tribunal to seek redress.
He said that the CPC has identified potential areas of concern that would require the collaboration of PURA to promote consumers’ rights education and help remedy other unfair trade practices through sensitization of consumers on rights and responsibilities, adoption and promulgation of good policies, collaboration in the area of capacity building, research among others.
The CPC is a non-profit making and voluntary civil society organization duly incorporated under the laws of The Gambia.
It is a federation of consumer groups founded in 2012, to serve as an authoritative national campaigning voice for consumers in The Gambia.
Mr. Jallow said the CPC engages in social communication, advocacy and other activities to raise awareness on consumers’ rights, promote fair trade and a healthy market environment in The Gambia. For the information of the reader, PURA has published the following public notice in the media:
PURA DETERMINATION / UNLIMITED DATA PACKAGE REFUND (AFRICELL G. LTD)
PURA received numerous complaints from aggrieved subscribers pertaining to the unilateral decision by AFRICELL (G) Ltd to change its unlimited bundle offering. The Authority notes with significant concern that the decision from AFRICELL violates the notification principles attached to all tariff changes and package offers.
In ensuring that sanity prevails in the market and in the interest of ensuring consumers are adequately protected against such unfair practices, AFRICELL (G) Ltd was directed by PURA to immediately institute the following remedial measures:
i. Submit the complete list of affected numbers to the Authority by the 12th February 2020;
ii. Process mandatory “cash” refunds to all subscribers that subscribed to the “unlimited data package” from the 1st January 2020 up to February 11th 2020. Alternatively, affected subscribers can also opt for e-refunds. These refunds are to be done in full.
iii. Dedicate customer care staff towards ensuring all refunds are processed within two weeks;
iv. Send Broadcast messages to the affected subscribers.
In addition, affected subscribers who have not been refunded by the 26th February 2020 are kindly requested to inform PURA through its 148 toll-free hotline. Transactional screenshots and e-receipts may also be sent via e-mail to email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org with subject line “AFRICELL UNLIMITED PACKGAGE REFUND”.
The Authority will monitor adherence to the listed conditions and should there be any breach, enforcement action shall be taken in accordance with the Authority’s enforcement regulations, 2010.
The Authority wishes to assure the general public that issues pertaining to consumer welfare are treated with utmost priority to ensure ALL service providers adhere to the terms and conditions of their engagement in the sector. Furthermore, PURA has never and will not condone activities by licensed entities that will bring the Authority’s name into disrepute.