CA wants telcos to answer customer calls in less than 20 seconds

Communications Authority of Kenya CEO Ezra Chiloba. [Denish Ochieng, Standard]

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has published tough guidelines that telecommunication companies will have to adhere to as it seeks to protect consumers from unfair treatment.

The guidelines offer consumers an opportunity to block all marketing messages sent to their phones as SMS, while at the same time requiring telcos to refrain from sending such text messages at night to customers who opt to receive them.

The new rules also require service providers to ensure that their services are up 99.9 per cent of the time and unplanned downtimes will see the companies compensate their subscribers.

They will also require a telco’s customer care agents to answer a subscriber’s call within 20 seconds, unlike the current situation where customers are kept on hold for long and in some instances do not get to talk to the agents.

“A licensee shall develop and implement an outage credit policy in situations where service is unavailable due to system interruptions and not as a result of scheduled and publicised maintenance… that will offer rebate to subscribers or issue credit equivalent to usage over similar period that outage lasted,” read the guidelines.

Communications Authority of Kenya headquarters. [Andrew Kilonzi, Standard]

CA, however, says a service provider might not be required to compensate subscribers if factors beyond its control such as emergencies, acts of God and vandalism caused the outage.

Service providers will also be required to ensure that people living with disabilities can access their services as well as customer care agents or call centres.

CA says the guidelines are aimed at holding service providers to certain minimum standards in safeguarding consumers interest, which is provided for by the law.

The guidelines also prohibit service providers from sending marketing information through text messages at night, limiting such communication to customers to 12 hours between 7am and 7pm.

“Marketing communications delivered by SMS may only be sent during the day within the time period 7am and 7pm  - unless such marketing communications are being delivered in response to a request initiated by a customer at the time of the day the customer places the request (or) prior consent has been expressly obtained from the customer for such communications to be delivered outside the time stipulated in these guidelines,” the guidelines say.

Subscribers can altogether decline to receive such messages as CA will also require the telcos to create registers labelled “do not SMS, do not call, do not span and do not disturb”.

Subscribers can then register their numbers after which the telcos cannot send marketing information to the numbers and, according to CA, they should “desist from delivering any spam or telemarketing calls from itself or other providers to any number in the register”.

A man walks past a neglected telephone booth along Muindi Mbingu Street, Nairobi. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

When running promotions where subscribers can win goodies, companies will be required to design sober messages that project realistic scenarios for subscriber wishing to take part in the promotions.

The telcos will also not parade the winners unless they have their express consent.

"Marketing communications relating to promotions and games should clearly reflect the value offered in and not suggest that winning the prizes is anything other than a matter of chance."

"(They) should clearly present the odds of winning and prizes on offer and should in no way, implicitly or explicitly, misrepresent the probability of winning a prize.”

“A service provider shall respect the privacy of its customers by obtaining consent prior to publishing or causing to be published anything which identifies or may be used to identify a customer who has won a prize,” says CA in the guidelines.