- Complaints and nature of Complaints handled by the Authorities
- Introducing the role of the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority in complaint handling.
- Rights of consumers, and enforcement.
- Procedure of instituting complaints at TCRA.
- Grounds of Appeal.
The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA) was established for purposes of regulating the communications and broadcasting sectors in Tanzania. Modern technological advancements have transformed the communications and broadcasting sectors in Tanzania. In Tanzania there is a widespread use of mobile services. Despite the advantages brought by usage of modern mobile services there have been concerns from consumers of such services which required the intervention of regulatory authorities. There have been incidents of mobile money illegal transfers, interception of communication, spam messages and sim swap fraud. As a matter of right, consumers are entitled to have these concerns addressed by the regulatory authorities.
TCRA is mandated to receive and determine consumer complaints from the postal and electronic communication services or goods. Telephone (fixed & wireless), prepaid calling cards, internet services, satellite network services (VSAT domestic services); and postal services who are dissatisfied with services rendered to them by any of the operators has a right and to redress the situation through lodging of complaints to (TCRA)
Complaints may be in relation to any matter connected with the supply, possible supply or purported supply of the goods or services. The Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority Act, 2003 provides for the procedure for handling consumer complaints by TCRA. The corporate team at Breakthrough Attorneys, through this article, highlights complaints’ handling procedures by TCRA. However, as stated earlier, this article specifically provides for consumer complaints with respect of mobile and electronic services by telecom companies, it does not address complaints from the broadcasting industry which are also filed at TCRA but stipulated in Tanzania Broadcasting Services Act, 1993 and its Regulations.
2. Nature of Complaints
Generally, complainants arise from dissatisfaction by the consumers of services or goods telecommunication and postal industry. The dissatisfaction may arise from any matter connected with the supply, possible supply or purported supply of postal and electronic services or goods. Complaints can be on non-adherence to procedure for swim swap, mobile money transaction, wrong bills,, arbitrary disconnection of lines, Poor service delivery, untruthful and deceptive advertisements, Supply of sub-standard equipment, Intrusion of privacy, Violation or non-delivery of mail, and delayed restoration of service.
3. The procedure of instituting complaints at TCRA
The procedure is as follows:
3.1 Submitting the complaint to the service provider.
When this is done, the service provider is required to determine and respond to the complaint within thirty (30) days. TCRA will not accept the complaint unless the same has been lodged to the service provider at the first instance.
3.2 Reference to TCRA – Consumer Complaint Unit (CCU).
If the complainant is dissatisfied with the response from the service provider; he will refer the complaint to TCRA. At this stage, reference of the complaint to TCRA is done by filing a prescribed form attached with previous reply from service provider or copy of the complaint sent to Service provider on the complaint. The Consumer Complaint Unit (CCU) as established determines the complaint. The CCU has to determine the matter within Sixty days (60) from the date of submission by the complainant.
In determination of the complaint, the CCU shall investigate and consider the following;
- If the complainant has interest in the matter to which the complaint relates.
- If the complaint is frivolous or vexatious.
In determination of the complaint, the CCU shall attempt to resolve the matter amicably.
3.3 Elevation of unsettled complaints to Complaints Committee (CC)
After determination of the matter at CCU, and in the event the Complaint has not been resolved to the satisfaction of the complainant, the complainant may in writing and signed by him request the CCU to refer the complaint to the Complaints’ Committee (CC). At this stage, parties will be required to provide evidence, arguments and present documents in the course of hearing of the matter. The Committee, after hearing of the matter, shall give decision within thirty (30) to sixty (60) days.
In making its decision, the Committee may order any of the following:
- requiring a party to supply goods or services for specified periods;
- requiring a party to supply goods or services or specified terms and conditions;
- requiring a party to pay the costs of another party or of a person appearing at the hearing or producing documents;
- dismissing a complaint;
- imposing fines;
- order for specific performance;
- order for refunds;
- appointing trustees;
- setting up of escrow accounts; and
- such other relief as may be deemed necessary or reasonable.
3.4 Further Appeals to the Fair Competition Tribunal.
If the complainant is dissatisfied with the decision of the Complaints’ Committee, the he may appeal to the Fair Competition Tribunal within 21 days or apply for review of the decision to the Internal Review Committee within 14 days as per section 34 of the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority Act, 2003.
3.4.1 Grounds of Appeal at the Fair Competition Tribunal
Section 42 (3) of the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority Act, 2003 provides that the aggrieved party may appeal based on the following grounds;
- That the award was not based on evidence
- There was an error in law
- The procedure or other statutory requirements were not complied with and non-compliance materially affected the award or
- The Authority did not have power to make the award
Our Breakthrough Attorneys experts’ analysis of this provision is that it provides broad criteria for the consumers to complain. The grounds aforementioned encompass ability for the Complainant to complain against the substance of the complaint, and both the law and facts represented during the lower stages at TCRA.
3.4.2 Powers of the Fair Competition Tribunal in determination of the Appeal.
In determination of the of the Appeal, and upon full hearing of the Appeal, the Fair Competition Tribunal may;
- Dismiss the whole or part of the appeal; or
- Set aside the whole or part of the award and refer any outstanding matters to the Authority for re-determination.
The procedure for consumer complaint at Consumer Affairs Unit of TCRA partly applies inquisitorial system of solving complaints. The unit usually reaches out to the service provider complained against with the aim of investigating the complaint. If the CCU is satisfied that the service provider breached terms of its contract with the consumer, or acted contrary to its licence and or TCRA regulations, the Authority shall take appropriate action. It is our position that the investigations sometimes take long to ensue to the frustration of the Complainants. It is our call that the TCRA should invest more on this aspect of capacity building on dispute resolution.
On the other side, this consumer complaint procedure of Telecommunication services does not allow the Complainant to sue a service provider in Court. The procedure allows complaints to be channelled through TCRA and the final decision be made by FCT. Normal courts are thus ousted of jurisdiction to the extent that the exclusiveness of the FCT and TCRA Organs’ mandate may also, as has been the case even in competition matters, be delayed based on composition issues as well as the bureaucratic procedures given these are not actual judicial bodies within the hierarchy but rather simple quasi-judicial bodies.
Consumers of postal and telecommunication services in Tanzania are entitled to protection under the law as cited above. This article highlights the complaints’ settlement procedures for public awareness. Our Breakthrough Attorneys’ experts believe that this article will be of help to the general public to have their complaints against service providers in the telecommunication and postal industry addressed accordingly. Consumer Complaint procedure is devised for protection of consumer rights. There have been many complaints in relation to electronic money transfer through mobile money operators, Sim-swap fraud, and many other complaints.
This publication has been prepared for information only, and it does not constitute professional advice. You should not act upon the information contained in this publication without obtaining specific professional advice. No representation or warranty (express or implied) is given as to the accuracy or completeness of the information contained in this publication, and, to the extent permitted by law, Breakthrough Attorneys, its members, employees and agents do not accept or assume any liability, responsibility or duty of care for any consequences of you or anyone else acting, or refraining to act, in reliance on the information contained in this publication or for any decision based on it