Kenya’s ICT regulator, Communications Authority, has released guidelines to clarify how the Authority expects licensed service providers to respect and protect ICT consumers’ rights and encourage best practices by licensed service providers and promote the provision of high-quality services to consumers. The Customer Protection Guidelines and Customer Care Standards will be in effect from July, 2023, and were issued in accordance with Sections 5, 7, 13, 18, 19, 20 and 21 of the Kenya Information and Communications (Consumer Protection) Regulations, 2010. The objectives of the guidelines are to:
- Ensure that licensed service providers avail critical information to consumers in a clear manner;
- Enable licensed service providers meet certain minimum standards to be able to promote the provision of high quality services therefore safeguarding consumer interests in the market;
- Ensure that all licensed service providers are treated fairly and in a non-discriminatory manner;
- Provide effective and efficient dispute resolution mechanisms between the consumers and service providers;
- Increase awareness on consumer rights and obligations;
- Clarify any ambiguity which may exist in the provisions of the Regulations for the time in force;
The guidelines obligate licensed service providers to establish sufficient customer care systems and provide email and telephone numbers through which customers can reach them. The Network Facilities Providers (NFP) and mobile virtual network operators have been advised to co-opt ‘100’ as the customer care number, and by means of which its subscribers as well as those roaming from East African countries can access customer care services. All the other licensees will designate any particular number and publicise the same to their customers for use. The facilities should also ensure that subscribers have not been burdened with the cost of accessing their services.
The guidelines have further set some thresholds requiring the service providers to ensure they are available 99.9%, be able to answer the calls within 20 secs for 80% of the complaints, acknowledge a complaint or enquiry within a day and resolve a complaint within 21 days. Further, the guidelines stipulate that the customers shall be informed of the operator assistance services available which shall be provided at no cost to the customers.
On advertisements and other marketing communications, the guidelines require them to observe the law, ethical and decency standards. All marketing communications shall contain the name, logo/trade mark of the service provider and contact information. The marketing communications have been prohibited from providing misleading information, taking advantage of vulnerable groups, inciting, engaging in illegal behaviour and or violence.
The guidelines further provide directions on handling consumer complaints. Service providers are required to acknowledge the complaints within one working day and issue them with a unique reference number and the call data records in relation to the complaint be preserved until the same is resolved. A service provider is obligated to ensure that a customer is updated on the terms and conditions under which a redress will be made, the procedures and channel for the customers to lodge complaints or queries and the time frame for redress. The service provider is obligated to make special provisions for lodging of complaints and queries by persons living with disabilities and reasonable effort is expended to cater for their needs.
In the event the complaints escalated into disputes or the service provider’s resolution exceeded 21 days, the complainant is allowed to make a report to the Authority which may allow it and guide the complainant on how to file a dispute as stipulated by the Kenya Information and Communication (Dispute Resolution) Regulations, 2010. If the request is declined, the same is treated as a complaint. A service provider is mandated to develop a policy on handling complaints, procedures in events of escalation and a policy on how to track resolution.
The guidelines further require all service providers to submit their commercial code of practice containing their customer service policy, advertising policy, complaints handling procedure, emergency, safety and assistance services, system of outrage credit, refund policy and the penalty policy.
A service provider is also mandated to prepare and submit standard subscriber service agreements for each of the services it provides to the public for approval by the Authority. A licensee should further provide full terms and conditions of the service and avail to a subscriber the full details of tariff and update them whether a product comes with a warranty and guarantee.
In the event a service provider wishes to discontinue, the guidelines provide that the service provide must update the authority within 3 months in writing prior to discontinuation and submit the subscriber management strategy/policy and further engage customers and come up with a customer transfer procedure providing details on , number of customers to be transferred, date of transfer, proposed service mapping, and notification procedure, customer information on how to lodge a complaint and consent or decline transfer.