PHONE RIGHTS

Mobile phone related issues remain one of the top complaints on the list of the Consumer Council of Fiji over the years.?

The consumer complaints range from accessibility, reliability, affordability and security of data as more and more Fijians join the country?s mobile phone revolution to remain connected nationally, regionally and globally.

The Council notes that despite high rate of mobile phone subscriptions in Fiji, bad business practices, high prices, misleading information and lack of consumer redress is rife in the domestic mobile market. A number of consumers in particular, the pre-pay mobile phone users vent their frustration on the network problems and the expiry dates imposed on the use of data?(the use or lose data).

According to the Telecommunications Authority of Fiji (TAF), mobile cellular subscriptions in 2012 is said to be 822,000 and subscriptions per 100 inhabitants to be at 92.35. Based on TAF?s figures, Fiji’s mobile cellular subscriptions have grown by a staggering 814% during the 10-year period of 2002 to 2012. However, 20% of subscribers have dual subscriptions where customers have subscribed to two or more operators to take advantage of short-term promotions in the absence on number portability.

Since 2008 to mid January 2014, the Council had registered a total of 1,109 formal complaints. Complaints on mobile phone products and services have featured regularly in the top five complaints registered at the Council since 2006.

The most common complaints are misleading or false claims made by businesses while selling mobile handsets. With respect to Mobile service complaints, the most common is on unsatisfactory services provided by the Telco?s such as connectivity problems, non-disclosure of information, unsure of the terms and conditions of the contracts, billing items, lack of transparency in the manner promotions are conducted, bombarding of promotional texts in the middle of the night, etc.

It must be noted that while this figure may constitute a miniscule portion of the 822,000 subscribers, but the number is much higher.? A complainant may lodge his/her complaint on the same issue that affects a larger number of consumers. For example, a complaint regarding unexplained loss of data or unauthorized charges made to a prepaid customer?s credit may be systemic and affect a larger customer base than just one complaint. It must also be stressed that complainants may have complained directly to the mobile network operator (with or without successful redress); complaints are also lodged with other agencies ? Fiji Commerce Commission (FCC), TAF or Small Claims Tribunal (SCT).

To protect consumers, the Council is calling policy makers and regulators of mobile telephone to fix consumer phone rights so that consumers are well protected from unfair business practices.

Ms. Premila Kumar

Chief Executive Officer