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BOCRA weighs in on 'disappearing airtime'

PAULINE DIKUELO
In the wind: Consumers have complained about 'disappearing minutes'
The Botswana Communications Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) says both consumers and mobile operators are responsible for protecting airtime and its unapproved usage.

Recently, consumers have expressed anger at instances where their airtime disappears while they are using data services.

Mobile operators have said this occurs when consumers do not subscribe for services to protect their airtime from being diverted to data services.

BOCRA this week acknowledged that complaints have been received on the matter, but said the responsibility rests with both parties. The regulator told BusinessWeek that mobile operators do provide an interface that stops unwanted usage, and the consumer activates this service to respond to unwanted usage.

“It is the duty of operators to provide quality of services to their customers and to be as transparent as possible about the services they offer,” said BOCRA deputy director Corporate Communications, Aaron Nyelesi. “Equally, consumers are duty-bound to learn and understand their devices as well as terms and conditions of the services they subscribe for.”

Airtime protection, Nyelesi said, means taking appropriate measures to ensure protection of un-approved and un-authorised usage of the consumer’s airtime, which may occur while the consumer is unaware.

However, he added that BOCRA has engaged operators to address the matter and enforce provisions in

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their systems to allow consumers to manage airtime/data bundles usage.

Nyelesi said there may also be instances where airtime disappears due to a technical problem in the network. In such instances, the operator is duty-bound to accept responsibility and accordingly redress the matter.  In addition, he said, there are also cases where unexpected usage may be as a result of the applications that the consumer has downloaded into their phones or gadgets. Such applications could be running automatic updates automatically using airtime. “Consumers are often advised to deactivate/disable automatic updating of applications and to make use of opt-in and opt-out facilities that will allow them to have control on use of their airtime or bundles,” he said.

BOCRA, through its consumer education campaigns, regularly advises consumers to familiarise themselves with issues relating to consumption and usage of mobile services, including product understanding. 

The communications sector regulator has also implored operators to ensure that consumers get relevant information on gadgets and services that they offer.



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