I blame the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) for not doing enough to protect citizens from exploitation by telecom companies.
Here is the problem: When I want to use data services, I can either convert my airtime to data (commonly known as mobile Internet), or purchase pure data directly, normally with special data SIMs or external modems, dubbed Internet everywhere.
My grievance is with the former. Picture this; I have airtime on my phone. I make the decision to convert a portion of it to data so that I can browse on my phone. I load a bundle of say, 50mb.
The problem comes when that bundle expires or gets used up. What gives the telecom company the right to go ahead, without my permission, and convert more of my airtime to data, and moreover, at an exorbitant rate ?
They claim that they send the client a warning message at 80 per cent usage of the current bundle, prompting them to load more data, or to turn off the data settings, and a further 30mins after the bundle expires, before they start “robbing” your airtime at the aforementioned rate.
This is broad daylight robbery and UCC should not tolerate it. The few “customer disservice” agents I have spoken to claim that this is how the data billing software works, and that it cannot be changed, but this is a preposterous lie. Why is this “software glitch” only unchangeable when the outcomes (forcibly selling data to unwilling or unwitting clients at exorbitant rates) are skewed firmly in the favour of the telecom company? Would this be allowed to happen if the net benefit was in the favour of the client?
Why can’t the telecom let me be after the data bundle I voluntarily purchased expires, until I make the next conscious decision to buy more data, but rather force me to buy data expensively? As with most software, I believe this is one of many settings that the billing software can undertake, but because they stand to benefit from this particular setting, this is what they have opted to go with.
And if indeed this is how it is, why are they not doing anything to correct this injustice? It defeats any understanding, that the telcoms have a mechanism in place for buying and loading data, purely at the discretion of the client, but then at some point in that understanding, they take control of that process and finish the job gruesomely.
There are, of course, a multitude of reasons why the so-called “safeguards” the telcoms have put in place will not work. Chief among these is that people can be forgetful (to turn off their data settings) but should they be penalised for this?
UCC, please compel these telecoms to choose another data billing setting in their software, and in so doing, return the power of what to do with their airtime, back to the true owners.