TCRA: Save us from this promo overkill by cellular firms!

TCRA: Save us from this promo overkill by cellular firms!

To my memory, this is the second article on this subject I am penning here. The former, a light one was addressed to the companies a while ago in what I considered free consultancy to them.  It was to their own interest and business good to take the advice seriously because their promos which is now on the verge of an overkill has escalated even more today.

It is both bizarre and disrespectful to the privacy of their subscribers, hence this note to you, hoping that you will prevail over them - in your cap as the state regulator. Of course, the birth of the cellular industry in this country is a good development. The early comer here was a company that is said to have originated from the United States.

It hit ground with the trade name MOBITEL. So "Mobitel" became the catchword for mobile phone handset owners as they called their mobile phone handsets those early days!  The technology in use by this cellular company, whether analogue or digital mattered little for the early subscribers of this mobile phone company, "Mobitel". To them, what mattered was to make or receive a call!

Now, this mobile phone company is going by another name as many others which have since dropped the original names when they first registered for business! Because of the novelty that one can take and make a call anywhere going by the record of the first cellular company here, the price tag attached to this service also mattered little even when one was required to pay for an incoming call those days!

You can therefore imagine how much money was minted by this first cellular provider in this country.
Soon, there were several more companies registering to provide this service in this country. Today, one counts not less than eight cellular companies operating in this country.

The question is: To what level and extent were these companies regulated especially the early arrivals in terms of price tags for their services? To what level was the public protected from paying through their noses on a service that was becoming increasingly expensive as compared to countries in the developed world?

The fact of the matter, if I may respond to the latter question, was that there was none or little protection because of the neo-liberal character of the Tanzanian economy. The state has long been banished from regulating and overseeing the running of the economy by big capital. This factor, coupled with hand greasing by incoming "investors" has further compounded the plight of the ordinary man and woman in this country in terms of pricing and the end product.

What is yet to be explained by those whose brief is to regulate and register and deregister businesses is the fact that names of companies from hotels to cellular companies change immediately after the five-year grace period of tax holidays comes to an end! For reasons of civility, I will not mention the name of hotels and cellular companies which have changed names over the last decade!

But there is one factor that I am writing to ask you, Director-General, to put an immediate stop to; it is the factor of promotional overkill which is becoming increasingly a nuisance to subscribers of these services. Just take hold of your handset and call someone subscribing to one or two of the major cellular companies.

Instead of an immediate computerised response that a given number is engaged or is switched off, one is confronted with too many words such as: "Ukiwa na".(name of the mobile phone company) Furahia nusu shilingi siku nzima baada ya dakika ya kwanza - Simu ya mteja unayempigia haipatikani" which translates for: "When you are a subscriber of - enjoy half a shilling the whole day after the first minute. The number you are calling is not reachable".

Alternatively, one is subjected to an answerback music tune which invites one to press some key on the handset if one is interested in the tune but only to be told the number one is dialing is not reachable or switched off! And this promotional overkill has been joined by practically all mobile phone providers in this country - all of them!

Eh! Bwana! Why this nuisance? Assuming the caller is a visitor to this country and has just bought a service line, and such things are in Kiswahili, won't the caller believe that it is actually the person he/she is calling at the other end of the line taking the call?
But aren't such things a nuisance and a time waster? Please, Mr Regulator, do something!

E-mail: makwaia@makwaia.com


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