Uganda communications commission (UCC) together with the Telecom companies have teamed up to fight against conmen and fraudsters that have made it a habit to steal from unsuspecting Ugandans through telecommunications services.
In a move to neutralize conmen who masquerade as staff of telecom companies and deceive customers that they have won unspecified prizes, telecom companies have introduced dedicated phone numbers to call their customers whenever they need to reach them.
Speaking at an event to mark World Consumer Rights Day on Monday 15, Ms. Dorcus M. Batwala, the General Manager of Customer Experience at MTN Uganda, said her company was set to begin popularizing 0312120000 as their phone number for calling customers. Airtel Uganda’s Denis Kakonge said theirs would be 0752600222.
“Sometimes the callers claim to be UCC staff, threatening to deregister customers’ phone lines unless they do as instructed. Customers who fail to see through the scam often end up losing money to the fraudsters.” Mrs. Batwala said.
This year’s commemoration of World Consumer Rights Day was marked with a multi-stakeholder discussion on Digital Safety at the Uganda Communications Commission Head Office. In line with COVID-19 protocols, the event at the office was a low-key affair but live television and online streaming ensured a big and engaged audience.
UCC executive director Irene Sewakamba said that world consumer rights day was first observed in 1983 with the aim to raise awareness about consumer rights, needs, and interests, adding that over the years, the occasion has become a focal point for activists demanding justice and fairness for consumers of various goods and services.
Irene further said that the Commission traditionally commemorates this event through week-long consumer awareness activities that culminate in what is dubbed the “Communications Consumer Parliament”, a televised multi-stakeholder interaction platform.
However, owing to the COVID-19 pandemic, UCC was forced to adjust the consumer engagement strategy this year, hence the discussion of the topic, “Consumer Safeguards” in line with this years’ theme, “Empowerment for Digital Safety: Challenges and Lessons”.
The Executive director explained that the Commission is obliged by the Uganda Communications Act 2013 to protect consumers of communications services, with Section 5(k) of the Act specifically tasking UCC “to promote and safeguard the interests of consumers and operators as regards the quality of communications services and equipment.”
Ms. Kaggwa Ssewankambo described technology as a double-edged sword, which despite its obvious advantages can be abused to the detriment of the consumer.
“Therefore, there is a need to mitigate the negative impact of unhealthy technology use by empowering consumers of digital services to make safe and healthy choices,” she said.
She added that the Commission undertakes sensitization of consumers about their rights and responsibilities, ensures compliance of operators with license obligations on customer care and consumer protection, addresses consumer complaints, and protects consumers against unfair business practices and counterfeit products.
Customers that are dissatisfied with their service provider’s response are encouraged to report to UCC through the regulator’s toll-free line 0800222777, the website http://www.ucc.co.ug or file their complaint at the Commission’s offices in Kampala, Masindi, Gulu, Mbale and Mbarara.
Mr. Nyombi Thembo, the UCC acting Director of Industry and Consumer Affairs emphasized consumer education, saying ignorance facilitates fraud.
“You can’t win a lottery in which you have not participated,” he said. Ms. Batwala expressed concern about customers that handle their SIM cards casually, while Mr. Haguma warned against forwarding of online content whose source is unknown