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Telkom Kenya meets consumer watchdog over unlimited Internet fiasco

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Updated Fri, January 4th 2013 at 00:00 GMT +3

By Paul Wafula

KENYA: Telkom Kenya has invited a consumers’ body for a meeting as it steps up defence of its unlimited Internet package after the later threatened court action.

In a letter to the Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek), the mobile firm, which is one of Kenya’s biggest players in the data market, maintained that it does not cut off users, but only reduces the Internet speeds once they exceed certain limits in line with its fair usage policy.

The firm has run into trouble for its unlimited Internet package, with a section of consumers, who feel cheated by the advertising into buying the subscription, convinced that they will not be disconnected.

“While we concede that there is need for continuous customer awareness on the fair usage policy, we confirm that as a result of the said policy, customers may experience a reduction in Internet speed should they exceed certain thresholds in usage, but at no time are such customers disconnected from use. Normal speeds resume once a new offer is purchased,” the letter dated December 19, 2012 reads in part.

The letter seen by The Standard is signed by Telkom Kenya’s boss Mickael Ghossein and was in response to an earlier letter written by Cofek.

Internet offer

“We note in your communication you indicate that you have carried out extensive research into our unlimited Internet offer. We would appreciate if you could share the results of your research with us and would propose that we have a meeting to discuss the issues surrounding the unlimited internet offer to allow us reach a consensus on the topic,” Ghossein said.

The letter is copied to the Communications Commission of Kenya.

Cofek had indicated that it would be going to court if the operator does not explain to a section of disgruntled consumers regarding the controversial unlimited Internet package.

Ghossein, however, did not say Telkom Kenya will grant Cofek’s demand to stop marketing its Internet as unlimited package to unsuspecting users, and instead, tell consumers that they were actually purchasing a 20GB bundle at Sh2,999 to be used in 30 days.

Cofek accused Telkom Kenya of deceiving customers to purchase the unlimited bundle. Cofek Secretary -General Stephen Mutoro argues that it is unfair for a consumer to spend Sh12000 on buying router, Orange modem and set up fee for the unlimited Internet package of Sh2990 monthly only to realise that they were duped.

Consumers have faulted the company’s user policy as being ‘hidden’ given that it does not explicitly mention anywhere on its fliers, brochures, posters, or website. Safaricom dropped the unlimited Internet data package in May. The move was unpopular to sections of its subscribers. Safaricom cited service degradation and revenue loss.

The exit of Safaricom saw Orange step up its promotional activities of its ‘unlimited’ Internet package, in a grand marketing campaign.

Increased in prices

Five months later, Telkom increased the prices of the unlimited Internet. While maintaining the unlimited nature of its weekly bundle on Internet Everywhere 3G+, Orange increased the prices of the seven days unlimited bundle from Sh990 to Sh1200.

The company has also increased price of its daily-unlimited bundle from Sh39 to Sh50. The price adjustments became effective from October 23, last year. Unused data bundles expire after 30 days. It also puts on the spotlight Kenya’s legislation that prevents advertisers from gaining unfair competition, through deceptive promotions.

At the global level, telecoms have tried to combat service degradation by introducing fair use policies that sets threshold for the speed and amount of data that users can access on unlimited subscriptions.  However, this has created disquiet among users, leaving service providers who do not publicise their fair use policies vulnerable to legal action.

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