The draft of the National Communications Authority (NCA) Quality of Service (QoS) Regulation, 2019 is for the first time introducing quality of service regulations for digital financial services.
Schedule VI of the draft is dedicated to QoS regulation on mobile money and other digital financial services.
The update in the QoS regulations has been necessitated by the fact the over the past 15 years telcos in the country got their first licenses (2G), there have been several developments, which were not covered under the existing regulations.
Mobile money is one of the major services the telecom operators have introduced since they first received their licenses 15 years ago, and there has not been any quality of service regulation for it, even though customers face some challenges accessing the service.
Beside mobile money itself, other digital financial services have emerged, and almost all of them are linked to mobile phone numbers.
Indeed, there was a time when NCA used to refer telecom service customers who had issues with mobile money to the Bank of Ghana, the only financial service regulator in the country.
But because the service runs on the platforms of the telcos, NCA has found it necessary to have a separate quality of service regulations for it.
Under Schedule VI the new draft Bill, dubbed Quality of Service Parameters For Digital Financial Service (DFS), there are three main propose regulations for digital financial services.
The first regulation requires service providers to ensure 100% money transfer success rate.
The secondly regulation said the time between when money is transferred and when it is received by the intended recipient should not be more than five seconds.
The third and last regulation is about failed transaction resolution time, and it said that in case of a failed transaction, the service provider had six hours from when the sending wallet was debited to resolve the problem and ensure the intended recipient’s wallet is credited.
Schedule X talks about sanctions for all violations, and page 29 bears the specific sanctions for digital finance QoS violations.
Per that schedule, failure to meet the money transfer success rate and money transfer success time would attract a fine of not less than 4,200 penalty points from the defaulting operator.
But if an operator fails to resolve a failed transaction within the stipulated six hours, the operator would have to compensate the respective customer(s) with 4,200 penalty points for every additional hour the problem remains unresolved.
According to the Fines (Penalty Units) Act of 2000, Act 572, one penalty unit is equivalent to one-third of the current minimum wage, multiplied by 30. The current minimum wage is GHC10.65 – one-third of that is GHS3.55 – that multiplied by 30 is GHS106.5 – multiply that by 4,200 and the amount comes to GHS447,300.
Speaking of sanctions, out of 40 sanctionable QoS violations, 30 attract only fines that go to the NCA, while six attract only compensation to the customers who suffered the challenges, and four attract both compensations to customers and fines to the NCA.
A careful look at the schedule, indicate that for violations suffered by individual customers, the NCA gets to fine the defaulting operator, while violations involving corporate customers attract more compensations than fines to the NCA.
Again per the benchmarks for customer satisfaction, the acceptable rate is 90% for all listed attributes – service availability, service accessibility, service reliability, billing performance and the help/enquiry services of the telcos.
The NCA said it will conduct regular surveys to determine the extent to which telcos meet the benchmarks and apply the necessary regulations to whip them into line.
The draft regulations, when approved for implementation, would also enjoin telcos to notify customers of any planned service disruption three clear days ahead, and also inform customers of any service outage within one hour of its occurrence, or face sanctions.
Per the draft regulations, in the event of a service disruption, telcos would be required to provide customers with detailed information on the affected service, period of disruption, reasons of disruption, areas of disruption, possible effects on customers and the estimated time for service restoration.
They are required to do this via SMS, social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram), at least one state-owned newspaper, local radio stations in the affected areas (including GBC Radio) and Television (including GBC TV Stations).
The only time telcos would avoid sanctions for service interruption is when there is a natural disaster, captured in the draft as force majeure.
Speaking of force majeure, telcos would also be required to assist state actors in the area of communication during natural disasters.
Meanwhile, the NCA itself is required by regulation to publish monthly QoS reports from all districts in the country to enable consumers to make informed choices on which telcos have a better quality of service.