Telcos to give subscribers free credit for outages

Telco

A mobile subscriber uses her phone in Nyeri town in May last year. The Communication Authority now wants telcos to compensate users for outages.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Telecommunications firms, including Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya, will be compelled to offer free credit to their subscribers as compensation for outages on their systems, the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has said.

The telcos will be required to give rebates to subscribers equivalent to the amount of airtime they would have used during the outage period.

However, the rebates will not be given on network outages arising from scheduled maintenance or weather events.

“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, emergency, natural disaster or force majeure, accidental damage of infrastructure by third parties, terrorism, and vandalism,” the guidelines state.

The move is aimed at pushing mobile operators to offer reliable services to customers.

Mobile subscribers often experience network outages on some networks that do not have adequate telecommunications infrastructure in parts of the country.

Money transfer

This does not only derail communication but also mobile money transfer and data services, which have become essential to Kenyans.

“A licensee shall offer a rebate to subscribers or issue credit equivalent to usage over a similar period that outage lasted,” state the guidelines. “The outage credit policy shall detail circumstances when credit, rebate or refund applies, process, procedure and timelines when rebate, credit or refund shall be issued to customer/subscriber.”

The outage credit policy has become popular globally. Last month, Canadian mobile and internet giant Rogers said it would give credit to millions of its customers after a nationwide outage. The firm is one of three telcos that control over 90 per cent of the country’s telecoms sector.

In a statement, the firm said users would receive “the equivalent of five days of service” following the outage that lasted for more than 15 hours.

The outage, which started on a Friday, lasted for many into the weekend, and also disrupted government services and payment systems, prompting criticism and questions from the federal government and telecommunications regulator.

The CA guidelines come at a time telcos have increasingly come under pressure from consumers through numerous complaints for bad service, such as poor voice and data services, which topped consumer complaints to the regulator in the quarter ended June 2022.

CA said that protests over these services accounted for half of the customer complaints registered between April 1 and June 30 this year.

Telkom Kenya

A quality report released by the regulator two months ago showed that Airtel Kenya had the worst mobile cellular services in the year to June 2021, despite posting the highest improvement among peers. Airtel posted a service quality score of 65.45per cent last year, up from 52 per cent the previous year.

The regulator has set an 80 per cent service quality compliance threshold for mobile cellular service providers.

The CA report further shows that Telkom Kenya was the second-worst service provider in the year to June 2021. The quality of service by Telkom Kenya dipped to 67.5 per cent last year from 73 per cent in 2020, marking the only slump among cellular service providers in 2021.

Kenya’s largest operator, Safaricom, retained its ranking as the best mobile service provider. In the same period, the telco posted a service quality score of 92.7 per cent, which is an improvement from 92 per cent the previous year—making it the only compliant service provider.

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