PURA introduces consumer parliament

Friday, September 26, 2008
In a bid to raise awareness of the rights of the consumer and the obligations of the service providers in the resolution of their common problems and concerns, the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), yesterday, convened a stakeholders’ meeting.

The consumer parliament forum, as it is called, brought together all the stakeholders from the utility industry. The session was held at the Paradise Suites Hotel in Kololi.

This maiden forum, according to officials, is an innovative public awareness and interaction session that aims at providing a forum for consumers of communication services, telephone (fixed and wireless), prepaid calling cards, and internet services, to meet face to face with operators, with the opportunity to express their views and put forward their complaints.

 The session also seeks to serve as a platform where the operators in turn can clarify issues pertaining to their service delivery, and to publicly give account of the ways in which they provide these services to their subscribers.

As expected, participants at yesterday’s forum raised a series of concerns, like the need for change in the service delivery systems of the various service providers. Many expressed the need for the operators to be current with the problems facing the consumers for possible redress through capacity building initiatives.

Suggestions from certain quarters challenged PURA to organise meetings on a quarterly basis with the various operators, so as to ensure that pertinent issues raised at the consumer parliament are adhered to for the achievement of the common objectives of the initiative.

Reacting to comments, Rein Zwolsman, chief executive officer of Gamtel/Gamcel, described the initiative as a "bold step", saying that the parliament will ensure that issues affecting both consumers and operators are highlighted. He expressed the need for operators to embrace the initiative positively since it stands to serve the interest of both parties (consumers and providers).

While commending PURA for such the noble initiative, Mr Zwolsman expressed his company’s resolve to ensure that it regains its admirable position in Africa’s telecommunication industry.

Alagie B Gaye, director general of PURA, said his authority will not relent in the efforts to ensure the provision of qualitative and efficient communication, electricity, water and sewerage services throughout the country. According to him, the consumer parliament initiative was one among many others aimed at addressing the consumers’ concerns, noting that the notion was built on the fact that service providers are here to provide services. He emphasised that the best way of engaging service providers is through a consultative manner such as the consumer parliament, where the provider will be made to know about the existence of their obligations to those they serve.

"Generally, consumers need to be equipped to be able to shop around, to know where to go and obtain comparative information on products and services," he said, adding that although it is possible to rely on the service providers to provide consumers with the necessary information and the advice they need, experience shows that this is not always the case. Mr Gaye stressed that operating companies are not keen to provide adequate information about their products and services.

In an effort to bridge this gap, and in pursuant of its mandate to inform, educate and protect consumers, Director General Gaye emphasised, PURA devotes significant time and resources towards this direction. While commending the participants for attending the parliament, he expressed his authority’s resolve to ensure compliance and standard best practices.

Author: by Hatab Fadera