The directive of the Minister of Communications to the National Communications Authority (NCA) requesting it to ensure that the telecommunications agencies operating in the country “roll over all unused data and voice bundles purchased by customers”, is one of the most delightful pieces of news I have heard in a country where good news is a very scarce commodity.
The TELCOS have been able to do as they please in Ghana because they have a slick public relations mechanism that manages public opinion, rather than reflect it back to its principals. There is also a great deal of incest between the TELCOS' PR system and the ever-so-pliant Ghanaian media.
These factors have enabled the TELCOS to evolve a near-cartel system in Ghana, which would never be tolerated in countries whose regulatory systems have teeth; countries in which regulatory bodies are constantly but on their toes by strong consumer bodies.
Ironically, it was in Britain, bastion of capitalism, that a statesman, Stanley Baldwin, characterized the power he found in one industry as being akin to “power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot through the ages.”
I have no doubt that even as you read this, Mrs. Ursula Owusu-Ekuful is fielding calls from “friends” pleading with her, on behalf of the TELCOS, not to implement the “harsh” directive she has issued to the NCA. It will be easy for her to fall into the trap of saying, “Well, I issued a directive to the statutory body in charge of the matter. If they don’t implement it, there is very little I can do! ” In other words, when the heat becomes overbearing, she could cop-out! But I hope she doesn’t.
For there is tremendous public support for her in the action she has taken. Here are a few examples of the public reaction as expressed on the Internet:
It saddens my heart when I feel the consumer in Ghana is being taken for granted. How should I buy a call credit or data bundle with my money, then someone directs me on how and when to use it? When you turn left from right there is no one to intervene for the consumer, because in Ghana the right things have been [relegated] to the background because of bribery. Believe you me that this order to Telcos will never [be implemented] but if this order [was]
given in Nigeria it would work. [Here]… when the Telcos decide to bribe the minister in charge she will not even revisit this topic anymore UNQUOTE
QUOTE: I urge any Ghanaian to get online and research into the type of services these companies provide in their home countries and compare that to what they are doing in Ghana. We need our people to start investing into this industry to save our people…UNQUOTE
QUOTE: We've been robbed for too long! What a pity! UNQUOTE QUOTE: The Ministry has given me the best news today. I hope the directive will be enforced. UNQUOTE
QUOTE: This nation of ours, at times, is not worth living in. When that tax was announced, I said exactly that [it was] we (subscribers) [who would… bear [it]. Why on earth should everything be pushed to the consumer? UNQUOTE
There are many other interesting comments on the issue. But strangely, Ghanaweb has closed the debate. I wonder why.
Speaking for myself, I once wrote privately to one of the executives of the Telcos, suggesting that that particular Telco should lead the way and “create AN OPTIONAL UNIVERSAL CREDIT, which those who are not acquainted with “bundles” (Diasporan visitors mostly) can use for whatever they want – Talk, Internet, Text. This will save customers from the confusion of not knowing what particular “bundle” to buy; of having credit locked up in one area of service that's not currently needed while another – crucially needed – is cut off!…
I also suggested that the Telco should make call tunes optional. If one OPTS-IN, then it's one's choice. But to be greeted with an arbitrarily chosen tune and invited to buy it is an invasion of one's right to privacy. This is extremely important because “music” does have the power of creating an EMOTIONAL REACTION on whoever hears it! … One doesn't want to be angry, or sad, when making a call!
Anyway, a phone service that is paid for has no legal right to impose emotions arbitrarily on those who pay to use it.”
I was kicking against a wall, however. The Telco just binned my suggestions! And now, maybe a “Portia”, by the name of Ursula, has come to judgment? I certainly hope so!
From Cameron Duodu
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