KENYA: DELVING INTO TELECOMMUNICATIONS – DEALING WITH CLIENTS IN THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS SECTOR
As highlighted in our previous feature, the telecommunications sector is highly regulated in Kenya with the Communications Authority (CA) being the mandated body to enforce KICA and its regulations. These regulations extend to the governing dealings between licensees and their subscribers/clients, as well as their respective responsibilities.
In this feature, we will look into what a sector player should keep in mind when dealing with their clients, particularly with respect to their rights as consumers; their privacy and data protection; and with their complaints.
Observing the rights of consumers
Generally, the Constitution of Kenya, 2010 and the Consumer Protection Act, 2010 grant specific rights to consumers, such as the right to be provided with full information on, among others, the price and quality of any product or service the consumer wishes to purchase. These rights equally apply to the telecommunications sector with respect to any person who uses communication services or products offered by a licensee.
The rights of subscribers in the telecoms space are pronounced in the Kenya Information and Communications (Consumer Protection) Regulations, 2010 (the Consumer Protection Regulations), with corresponding obligations on the licensee. In summary, the rights include the right to clear and complete information on the rates, terms and conditions for the products and services being offered; products and services; protection from unfair trade practices including false and misleading information; and the right to privacy and protection from unauthorized use of personal information.
As a licensee, it is important to put in place necessary measures and technologies (where necessary) to ensure that consumer rights are upheld. The measures should be engineered to ensure that all regulatory requirements are met.
Ensuring the privacy and data protection of consumers
Telecommunications operators generally interact with a wealth of information from data inflows and outflows amongst their consumers. As seen above, a consumer is entitled to privacy and protection from unauthorized use of personal information. For this reason, KICA creates obligations on licensees to ensure that their privacy and data are protected.
In this respect, an operator has to be aware of the relevant legal provisions with respect to interception of communications, disclosure of information, direct marketing and so forth, not only under the KICA but under the Kenya Data Protection Act, 2019 as well. This has to be approached in light of the national security and law enforcement obligations placed on the operators.
To emphasize, it is key for telecoms sector players to ensure their data handling practices are in line with the Data Protection Act and its regulations. This includes adhering to the principles on data protection covering aspects such as consent, data transfers, data minimization and data retention; and implementing organisational and technical measures to ensure compliance. We invite you to review our previous publications on data protection.
Dealing with consumer complaints
The subscriber’s /client’s right to access avenues of redress and dispute resolution have to be catered to. Licensees have to put in place dispute resolution mechanisms to address any complaints and disputes. The Kenya Information and Communications (Dispute Resolution) Regulations, 2010 provides guidelines on how this should be done, noting that the CA has overarching mandate to deal with all complaints made against licensees.
The CA has employed various mechanisms to ensure consumers have an avenue for redress. These measures include the Consumer and Public Affairs (CPA) Department within the CA which deals with public complaints made against licensees; designating a specific email address for members of public to lodge complaints; and having specific dial extension numbers where consumers complaints can be reported.
Essentially, subscribers have a direct link to the CA to report any misconduct, To mitigate public and regulatory scrutiny and the resultant poor public image, it is paramount to ensure that consumer rights are respected and effective complaint handling and dispute resolution mechanisms are in place.
At the end of the day, subscriber satisfaction has a direct correlation with the success of your business. Ensuring this, and maintaining good standing with the regulatory watchdog, entails proper processes and procedures being in place to ensure proper service delivery and consumer rights protection in line with the relevant laws as highlighted above.