By Tabora Bojang
Following a barrage of consumer queries against exorbitant mega byte charges and credit deductions, The Gambia’s public utilities regulatory authority, Pura, has admitted it lacks the digital tools to effectively oversee and regulate the practice of mega byte cheating by GSM operators.
The authority made this disclosure before lawmakers yesterday as it presented its 2019 activity and financial statements for consideration and approval.
It said the majority of consumer complaints and concerns it received during the year were on mega byte either being theft or deduction, credit deductions, poor or no Internet availability, network unavailability, harassment, phoney marabout and malicious calls.
Asked to explain what steps the authority took to address the issues, Pura’s director of consumer affairs, Solo Sima, said the authority was “not in the position to be able to look into credit or mega byte deductions using technology”.“We are getting a lot of mega byte complaints but we cannot ascertain it using technology [available to us], but we are getting funding from the World Bank to address the situation,” Sima said.
He said the authority only relies on its 148 customer helpline and the report of the operators which could not be independently verified in settling disputes emerging from such complaints.
“When complaints come, we actually work our way with operators to show us what the consumers have used in terms of mega bytes but we will not be in the position to verify or ascertain it because we don’t have the machine,” he admitted.
According to the regulator, the number of mobile broadband subscriptions as of 2019 totalled 928,266 subscribers on 3G and 4G representing a penetration rate of 43 percent mainly on 3G.
He said “4G penetration still lacks considerably since its introduction into the market and concerted efforts still needed to be made in relation to affordability to ensure the mass uptake desired is attained”. Currently, he said, only Africell and QCell offer 4G services.