0
Opinions Sat, 19 Oct 2019

Do the Telcos deserve Ursula's ministerial bashing?

The directive of the Ghana Minister of Communications to the Ghana National Communications Authority (NCA), requesting the Authority to ensure that the

telecommunications agencies operating in the country “rollover 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 so far because they have an incredibly slick public relations mechanism that manages public opinion, rather than reflect public reactions back to its principals.

There is also a great deal of incest between the TELCOS' formidable 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, despite their own rigorous approach to policing the industries under their charge, the regulatory bodies are constantly put on their toes by strong and very alert consumer

bodies.

Ironically, it was in Britain, bastion of capitalism, that a statesman, Stanley Baldwin, characterised the power he found in one particular 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, the Ghana Minister of Communications, Mrs Ursula Owusu Ekuful is busy fielding calls from “friends” and colleagues, 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 be lobbied into falling into a trap: “Well", (she could plausibly say)"

I did issue 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 easily take the usual Ghanaian route and -- cop-out! Who wants powerful enemies with proficient lobbyists at their disposal?

But I hope she doesn't act "Ghanaian" in this instance. For there is overwhelming public support for her in the action she has taken. Everyone knows that the Ghanaian public is not the most assiduous entity when it comes to writing to express an opinion on public issues. But in this case, the public reaction has been surprisingly articulate. Here are a few examples of the public reaction, as expressed on the Internet: (www.ghanaweb.com)

"It saddens my heart when I feel the consumer in Ghana is being taken

for granted. Why 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!"

"I urge any Ghanaian to get online and research into the type of services these companies provide in their home countries [overseas] and compare that to what they are doing in Ghana. We need our own people to start investing into this industry to save our people...."

"We’ve been robbed for too long! What a pity!"

"The Ministry has given me the best news today. I hope the directive will be enforced."

"This our nation, at times, is not worth living in. When that [VAT] 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?"

There are many other interesting comments on the issue. But strangely, Ghanaweb has closed the debate after only 33 published comments. 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 system which those who are not

acquainted with the myriad variegated “bundles” (Diasporan visitors mostly) can use for whatever they want – Talk, Internet, Text.

This will save customers from the unnecessary confusion that arises from not knowing what particular “bundle” to buy; and thereby having credit locked up in one area of service, that one does not need to use, currently, while another service that's crucially needed – is cut off!.... My own problem is that I don't use "talk", whereas I need to read and write a lot! I try to explain this when I am buying CREDIT, but my so-called "bundles" always leave me short and dry and at the worst possible time! The Telcos simply do not seem to understand that in this age, systems MUST BE USER-FRIENDLY IN EVERY RESPECT.

I also suggested that the Telco should make caller-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!

Suppose one doesn't want to be angry, or sad, when making a call but the "music" that greets you after you've dialled sounds so vile to you that your emotions are basically kidnapped?

Anyway, why shoulda phone service that you pay for have the right to impose emotions arbitrarily on you when you pay to use it.”

I was kicking against a wall, however. when I wrote to the Telco. It just binned my

suggestions!

And now, maybe a “Portia”, by the name of Ursula, has

come to judgment? I certainly hope so!

Columnist: Cameron Duodu
Related Articles: