MTN yet to respond to UCC concerns ahead of 20-year licence expiry

Monday September 10 2018

UCC, in a licence evaluation report,

UCC, in a licence evaluation report, highlighted a number of issues some of which are yet to be addressed ahead of MTN’s licence expiry. FILE PHOTO 

By Christine Kasemiire

Kampala. MTN was asked to address a number of concerns pending renewal of its 20-year licence that is due to expire next month.
However, some of these issues are yet to be addressed even as Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) and the telecom continue to engage with the target to resolve all concerns by the end of this month.

“… there are a number of outstanding areas of non-compliance which must be addressed before the Commission [UCC] progresses [on] the application for renewal of MTN’s licence,” an evaluation report authored by UCC and signed by the regulator’s executive director, Mr Godfrey Mutabazi, reads in part.
The report, which is a requirement of the telecommunications sector licencing regime, was authored following MTN’s October 3, 2017 application for a single term renewal of its licence for another 10 years.

Key among the concerns, according to the report, include delay to adequately address consumers’ complaints, noncompliance with some regulatory directives such as sending unsolicited messages to customers without the “opt out” information, discriminatory trade terms and refusing or delaying to give competitors interconnect agreements within the stipulated time.

“In the last two years MTN has consistently fallen short of the established threshold to resolve 90 per cent of all consumer complaints within 24 hours,” the report reads in part, noting that the telecom has only managed to handle 75.5 per cent of complaints contrary to required minimums.

Beyond this, UCC noted that MTN has also fallen short of its interconnection obligations, which under the Interconnection Negotiations Timelines, the telecom is required to conclude within three months.

For instance, the report said that whereas MTN had sufficiently addressed interconnection agreements for Utl, Airtel, Africell, Sure Telecom and Smile Communications, among others, the telecom had failed to effectively handle agreements for One Solution, Roke Telecom and Simbanet.

Some of the interconnection agreements, the report noted, had taken as much as two years yet others are yet to be addressed to date.
In a telephone interview at the weekend, Mr Mutabazi told Daily Monitor that MTN was yet to fully address the concerns five months after the report was brought to the attention of the telecom.
The report, according to UCC was authored in March and was shared with MTN.

However, according to the report, MTN has attempted to address some of the concerns even as UCC found some of the explanations insufficient thus requiring more explaining.
“We are making good progress on the concerns highlighted [in the report]. We hope to finalise by the end of this month. MTN is still within the timelines,” Mr Mutabazi said, without providing more details.

The report also found that MTN had over the last 20 years largely complied with most of its licence and regulatory obligation, providing uninterrupted services in accordance with the law.
Ms Justin Ntabgoba, the MTN corporate affairs manager in an interview at the weekend, told Daily Monitor they were working on a comprehensive response to a number of questions that they would share with this week.

Customer complaint
Early this year, MTN was forced to go on the offensive when a Makerere University lecturer and lawyer, Mr Busingye Kabumba, accused the telecom of failing to sufficiently address a mobile money complaint that he had raised.
According to Mr Kabumba, MTN had requested that he obtains a court order when he asked the telecom to retrieve money he had wrongly sent to an unintended number.
However, the matter was later settled when Mr Wim Vanhelleputte, the MTN chief executive officer, personally engaged Mr Kabumba following a viral outcry on social media platforms under the #MTNMwedekko hashtag.

Billing incidents
The report also raised the concern of unfair billing, a key complaint that has been raised by a number of customers in the period of the current licence.
For instance, the report indicated that a number of billing incidents totaling to more than 360,000 had been brought to the attention of the telecom in 2014 but where never reported to UCC as required by the law.
“MTN was under obligation to report this matter to the Commission [UCC] but did not until the Commission raised the matter of public outcry and questioned MTN’s data billing platforms,” the report reads in part.
MTN, according to the report, was forced to reimburse more than Shs770m worth of data to customers who had experienced failed but charged bundle purchases and system logic failures.

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