Surgeon sues Safaricom over Bonga points new rules

The Bonga points loyalty scheme contributed Sh4.5 billion of the firm’s liability stock in the last financial year.  [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

A surgeon has sued Kenya’s largest telco Safaricom over its decision to have loyalty points expire if not redeemed.

Safaricom’s new terms and conditions indicate that subscribers will start to lose their Bonga points from January 1, this year, if not redeemed within the set timelines.

However, Nakuru-based medic, Dr Magayi Gikenyi, in his case filed before the High Court, argues that the telco never involved its customers before making the decision.

According to him, Safaricom customers should not be forced to redeem the Sh4.5 billion accrued from being loyal customers using the telco's services.

 “The action of the respondent will lead to, inter alia, loss of public confidence and outright abuse of business dominance to the detriment of many poor Safaricom subscribers in the country,” he argues in suit papers.

The Bonga points loyalty scheme contributed Sh4.5 billion of the firm’s liability stock in the last financial year.  

Safaricom, in its terms and conditions,has ruled out redeeming Bonga points that are older than three years.

“Effective January 1, 2023, all non-redeemable Bonga points older than three years (December 2019) will expire and will be unavailable for redemption,” says the updated terms and conditions.

“This is a permanent implementation where Bonga points accrued will now have a validity period to enable customers to redeem points,” its terms reads in part.

In his case, Gikenyi accused Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) of failing to tame Safaricom.

He argues that CA ought to protect consumers of telecommunication services.

“It is unfair for the respondents to fail their subscribers by forcing them to redeem their loyalty points or else they lose them through arbitrary and irrational actions. The respondents' action of introducing expiry dates for Bonga points was implemented without input from subscribers. It just sprung up,” he claims.

According to him, Safaricom has breached its customers' expectation that they will use the loyalty points whenever they want to.

 “The respondent’s behavior of punishing its subscribers goes against the rule of business loyalty and is against the legitimate expectations of customers. Even in the purported notice, there is no room for negotiations, but as a point of information, This means that the subscribers have been condemned unheard.

“ The actions of the respondents are illegal, irregular, and irrational to say the least, and are smirk of use of telecommunications dominance to the detriment of the subscribers,” argues Dr. Gikenyi.

He wants the court to find that Safaricom’s actions are a breach of its customers’ expectations.

At the same time, the surgeon is asking the court to find that introduction of the expiry date without the customers’ voice is illegal.

The doctor’s case is a litmus test on whether corporates can decide to take away loyalty points and how it should be done. At the same time, it puts to test whether a customer can actually claim cash in place of the points earned.

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