UCC urges telecoms to open up on fast data depletion concerns

UCC clarifies Airtel's statutory levy payment, fast data depletion concerns

Kampala, Uganda | By Michael Wandati | The Uganda Communication Commission (UCC) is urging telecom operators and Internet Service Providers (ISP) to embrace transparency in their data processes, aiming to alleviate customer frustrations stemming from data inconsistencies.

Nyombi Thembo, the UCC Executive Director, underscored the regulator’s dual commitment to safeguarding consumer rights and fostering industry growth during a recent town hall meeting with data providers.

Thembo emphasized a range of consumer rights, including access to quality services, privacy protection, transparent terms and conditions, clear billing, efficient complaint resolution, competitive offerings, product safety, truthfulness in advertising, and consumer education.

He stressed the importance of service providers transparently communicating terms and conditions upfront and promptly addressing customer grievances.

In a bid to empower consumers, the commission is devising mechanisms for self-monitoring data consumption trends, aiming to mitigate complaints about data inconsistencies.

Thembo outlined the commission’s efforts, stating, “The commission is developing mechanisms to have consumers self-monitor their data consumption trends, which they believe will reduce the number of complaints about data inconsistencies. The commission is assessing a variety of tools where we should select one that will put the monitoring of data usage and its quality in the hands of the consumers.”

David Birungi, Airtel’s head of communications, acknowledged persistent complaints despite operator efforts to educate customers, attributing issues to a lack of understanding among smartphone users. Airtel intends to bolster subscriber awareness initiatives and launch community outreach programs.

On the subject of data costs, Birungi highlighted Uganda’s competitive rates while advocating for a reduction in smartphone taxes to stimulate adoption.

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“Uganda boasts competitive data rates, with the average cost of a GB standing at about 2,000 Shillings. However, our primary focus should be on reducing this cost by increasing smartphone usage,” Birungi remarked.

“Currently, only 33 per cent of Ugandans utilize smartphones on a network that spans from Nebbi to Kitgum, Bujjiji, and Kabaale. It’s akin to having a bus with 25 seats occupied by only three passengers; the full cost falls on those few,” he added.

UCC’s emphasis on transparency and consumer empowerment aligns with broader initiatives aimed at addressing data-related concerns and enhancing telecommunications services across Uganda.