Recently, a tweet of a consumer who got blocked by WASAC for complaining ‘too much’ got viral. Luckily, the CEO himself got to know about it and responded with an apology, and also promising to take action. “Apology. That is not acceptable... Going to take the necessary steps,” he tweeted.
This is one isolated case where management promise to act, the majority of local firms never bother to respond to customer complaints.
It is important to note that since we (The ServiceMag) created our social media pages to give the public a channel to voice their compliments and complaints about service providers, we have been overwhelmed by the number of unsatisfied client complaints. What makes this challenging for The ServiceMag is the fact that we have no ability to sanction poor service providers because the aim is simply to raise awareness about the importance of better service delivery in Rwanda and in Africa.
The diversity of complaints we receive shows how desperate consumers feel because of the lack of proper channels and tools to deal with the abuse they suffer from service providers. It is no news to people who follow us on www.twitter.com/theservicemag and www.facebook.com/groups/TSM that the company that has the majority of complaints is one of the leading telecoms.
Though they have a good team that always tries to respond to queries, the complaints range from unsolicited SMS, poor internet connectivity, loss of airtime on people’s mobile phones and many more.
According to posts on our page, another company that never responds to complaints is the Rwanda Utilities Regulatory Authority (RURA). Note that RURA’s mandate as written on their website is: “We protect users and operators by taking measures likely to guarantee effective, sound and fair competition”. Rura’s mission is to regulate certain public utilities, including telecom service providers, electricity, water utility bodies, removal of waste products from residential or business premises, extraction and distribution of gas and transport of goods and persons, among others. This implies that as a regulator, they work to protect our interests. On their website, one can file a complaint; but based on feedback we get, not much happens after complaints are logged.
Customers in Mali, Benin and the DR Congo, recently launched different boycott campaigns of telecoms because of the unfair, deceptive and fraudulent practices in the marketplace. Should we have to reach that stage in Rwanda before our complaints are taken into consideration?
Which institution in Rwanda today can conduct investigations; sue companies that violate the law against consumers’ protection? How can we protect ourselves by the multitude of deceptive advertising we see here and there?
The financial sector in Rwanda also seems to get an important number of complaints because of dysfunctional ATM machines, long queues in banks, unclear transfer charges and many more. It is the same litany for insurance companies when it comes to paying claims.
All these examples show that as customers/consumers/citizens, we basically have no regulator fighting for our rights. After I discovered few weeks ago that there was an Association on Consumers Protection here in Rwanda (ADECOR), I had an interesting meeting with them where I heard they work more at the grassroots levels. Blame my ignorance but I had never heard about them before.
In today’s dynamic economy, we really need a regulator, an association or an agency that can truly protect consumers and promote competition. We need to be sure that when products purchased in supermarkets are not of quality, the Rwanda Standards Board is able to sanction the companies. We need to be sure that prices, quality and services benefit consumers.
Until we develop policies and research tools through hearings of consumers with effective, visible data collection and hopefully collaboration with law enforcement partners; nothing will change in advocating consumer protection and champion the interests of consumers.
If we want service providers to improve their services, Rwanda also needs a platform that develops rules to ensure a vibrant marketplace as well as educate consumers and businesses about their rights and responsibilities.
The author is a customer service consultant and the publisher of www. theservicemag.com