Let’s address challenges facing local consumers

Business Daily Africa, March 13, 2014

By Daniel Asher

The mobile phone industry plays a critical role in enhancing economic development across the world. Its development is closely linked with the national competitiveness and its impact on various facets of sustainable economic development.

Whereas its history dates back to the 1950s, the technology only came to reality in the 1990s with development of the GSM network in Europe.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development 2012 report indicates a growing enthusiasm about the increasing number of mobile phones in the developing world and the potential of the mobile platform in helping to address the needs of individuals and small businesses.

The International Telecommunication Union (ITU) estimates for 2013 indicates that the world has already attained 6.8 billion mobile subscriptions, equivalent to 96 per cent of the world population of 7.1 billion.

Kenya has been at the centre stage of this development since late 1990s when cell phones paved their way into the Kenyan market.

According to the CCK report released in January 2014, there are 31.3 million mobile phone subscriptions in the country of an estimated population of 44 million. These figures clearly indicate how the mobile phone touches on lives of consumers.

As the country prepares to join the rest of the world in celebrating the 2014 World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) under the theme ‘Fix Our Phone Rights!’, Kenya’s the mobile phone industry continues to present a number of challenges to consumers which must be quickly addressed to restore sanity and consumer confidence.

As we move forward, the country needs to have in place strong legislation to effectively address issues of access to affordable mobile services.

The existing regulations need to be revised to allow consumers to set the term of how their personal data is to be used and a requirement that both mobile service providers and regulator must protect personal data given by consumers for the use of mobile services.

Service providers should ensure that consumers only get billed for services they requested and that mobile service bills be developed in a fair and transparent manner.

Asher is the consumer programme officer at Consumer Unity and Trust Society, Africa Resource Centre in Nairobi

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