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Phone companies reap Millions from Unsuspecting Uganda Subscribers

15-April-2012

Unsuspecting Ugandans are losing millions of shillings in the ongoing endless promotions by telecom companies.

Most of the companies are running promotions that require their customers to subscribe by sending messages to win cash, airtime, cars and household property.

The customers who subscribe are required to send as many messages as possible to book themselves slots in the draws.

Each message costs between sh50 to sh1,500 depending on the network and nature of the promotion.

“On Warid, when you load sh1,500, you are told that you will call for 24 hours under the Pakalast promotion. But after calling for only 60 minutes, the airtime runs out,” said Emanuel Buufu a subscriber on the network.

Buufu added that many times after subscribing, the network goes off and he is unable to call.

On Airtel, there is a promotion dubbed Kika where subsribers are required to send messages to enter a draw and win cash, but only a few are lucky to get.

“When you send the first message, the computers send you more questions and as you reply, they deduct more money from your account until you give up,” said Nelson Naturinda.

Naturinda, an Airtel subscriber added that under another promotion dubbed Bera mu Class, one sends a message to 164 to win items but it is difficult to walk away with anything.

“After subscribing, one keeps getting more questions to answer and each message you send costs sh900. You can spend even sh10,000 without getting anything in return,” Naturinda said.

On MTN , customers seeking to win items under the Sukuma and Win promotion send messages worth sh900 each to enter a draw and like on the other networks, computers send them more questions, which they must answer.

“When you get tired of answering questions, the computers tell you to send “ST OP” to halt the flow of questions and they deduct sh900 from your account,” a subscriber noted.

Again on the MTN network after making a call, many times the message showing the balance on your account comes in an incomprehensible combination of characters, which many clients do not understand.

“With the incomprehensible language, you cannot know how much you have spent on a call. But the unfortunate side of it is that the last part of the message is in English to ensure that you read it. The last part is an advert of an on-going promotion,” the subscriber added.

Those using the MTN smart phones to access internet services are also complaining that they don’t know how much they pay for the services as deduction are automatically made from their accounts.

There are also automatic renewal of caller tunes, where as much as sh500 is deducted from subscribers accounts on a monthly basis across most of the networks without their approval.

As result many Ugandans are losing millions of shillings under unclear circumstances to the telecom companies.

Isaac Kalembe, the Public Relations Officer of Uganda Communications Commission (UCC ) told Saturday Vision that they had received several complaints from the public on unauthorised deductions from accounts.

“But whenever we get the complaints, we put them to the attention of the service providers and we ensure that they are addressed.

We have a special desk handling the complaints.” Kalembe added that UCC is carrying out a public dialogue to iron out such queries.

“We have just completed such a dialogue in northern Uganda. We met with the members of the public and officials from these telecom companies and ironed out some of these differences.”

Airtel spokesperson, Joseph Kanyamunyu told Saturday Vision that the promotions on their network dubbed “try and buy” are optional for the subscribers.

“We just give you an opportunity for three days and if you don’t want we ask you to send DEACT to get off,” Kanyamunyu said.

Efforts to get comments from MTN and Warid were futile. The Warid spokesperson, Jackson Oboth promised to reach back to us, but did not, while Justina Ntabgoba of MTN declined to pick our calls.

But the State Minister for ICT , Nyombi Tembo recently advised Ugandans to learn how to live with the improving technology to avoid being duped by unscrupulous people.

By John Semakula: The New Vision Newspaper

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