BOCRA probes Mascom's viral Choppies SMS

Slip up: Mascom apologised for the unsolicited messages this week PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO
Slip up: Mascom apologised for the unsolicited messages this week PIC: MORERI SEJAKGOMO

The Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) says it is unlawful for any telecommunications provider to hand its customers’ information over to third parties, without their consent.

The authority this week said it had launched an investigation into Mascom Wireless network, following a viral SMS campaign marketing Choppies’ new online retail platform.

This week Mascom consumers were outraged after receiving SMS from the giant retail Choppies reading: “Choppies online platform is now operating. Please login to stay home and enjoy great value for your money.” Consumers queried what arrangement Mascom had made with the retail grocer to allow direct commercial marketing to its database. Mascom dominates the telecommunications industry through subscriptions accounting for 50% of the 3.4 million mobile subscriptions in the country as of March 2019.

BOCRA director corporate communications and consumer affairs, Aaron Nyelesi said the authority’s compliance team was engaged on the matter.

He said the BOCRA Act does not allow any telecommunications company to sell or distribute its customers’ information without their consent.

“It is an offence for any person who is engaged in the operation of a public telecommunications system or the provision of a telecommunications service who otherwise than in the course of his or her duty, intentionally or negligently discloses to any person, information about a customer obtained in the course of performing his or her duty,” he said.

Nyelesi said offenders are liable to a fine of not less than P10,000 but not more than P50,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not less than one year but not more than four years or both.

Mascom had not responded to BusinessWeek’s enquiries on the matter by the time of going to press. However, the mobile service company on Tuesday evening publicly apologised for the viral messages and insisted it had not received any payment.

Mascom also said no individual customer details were shared with the retailer in question.

“Our intentions were founded on the consideration that this was a useful and essential message, which can augument the stay-at–home principles and encourage the use of online channels during these challenging safety times,” read a statement from Mascom.

Consumers have become increasingly sensitive about the sharing of their personal data, particularly as part of the coronavirus response from government includes people having their details recorded whenever they enter a shop, company or public transport.

Editor's Comment
Transparency Key In COVID-19 Fight

When the pandemic reached Botswana’s shores last year March, a nation united in the quest to defeat an invisible enemy. It is a moment never witnessed in recent memory, with the catastrophes of the world war and the 1918 Spanish influenza being the only other comparisons in living memory. Botswana, like the rest of the world, had to readjust its priorities and channel most, if not all, of its energies towards fighting COVID-19. It has not been...

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