Telecom operators will pay customers up to Sh30 per day for dropped calls if Parliament adopts a revived Bill that imposes a penalty for voice service outages.
The Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill, 2022 has been tabled in Parliament and will require Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya to refund callers a maximum of Sh30 per day for up to three dropped calls daily.
The proposed law if adopted is likely to prompt telcos to ramp up investment and significantly improve the quality of calls and mobile services in a bid to avoid compensating their subscribers.
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Telcos are currently not compelled to compensate their subscribers for dropped calls, a legal gap that has shielded the firms amid high rates of network hitches in different parts of the country.
Airtel and Telkom Kenya have been previously cited by the Communications Authority (CA) for failure to meet the minimum 80 per cent threshold on the quality of calls in over 30 counties.
“A licensee is liable to credit a consumer who initiates a call that gets cut out after a connection by ten shillings worth of airtime for each call drop within Its network for a maximum of three call drops per day,” the Bill reads in part.
Telcos will however be spared from paying users for call outages caused by factors beyond the control of an operator, technically known as force majeure.
A similar one that was tabled in Parliament two years ago lapsed in January handing telcos temporary reprieve.
A Bill expires or lapses when MPs fail to debate it and is not reviewed by a parliamentary committee one year after being tabled in the House.
Regulator of the telecommunications industry, CA last year flagged Airtel and Telkom Kenya for the poor quality of their calls across 33 counties.
Telkom Kenya scored an average mark of 73 per cent while Airtel had 52 per cent in the survey that was conducted last year. Safaricom scored an overall mark of 92 per cent in the survey.
CA said that it would monitor the performance of the two telcos in the 2020/21 year to determine if they complied with the demands to improve connectivity on their networks.
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The regulator is under the law allowed to fine telcos up to 0.2 per cent of their revenues if they breach requirements on the quality of calls and other service outages as a result of omissions on their part.
Kenya seeks to join countries in the West where users of telecom services are compensated in the form of a credit on their bill after network outages.
In some European countries, customers are able to claim any out-of-pocket expenses that resulted from being without phone services. This must be a genuine loss which can be proved with evidence.
In Kenya, Safaricom and Airtel have faced regulatory investigations after outages left their customers without services for hours.
In 2017, Airtel was fined Sh26.6 million by the CA for failing to meet the set standards on call quality in a period that saw rival Safaricom slapped with a hefty penalty of Sh270 million.
Telkom Kenya paid Sh14.9 million for quality breaches during the same period.
Telecommunications service outages have also been viewed as a threat to the economy, especially for critical services such as money transfers.
A 2016 Treasury report warned that a collapse of the M-Pesa service could, for instance, cause widespread disruption in the economy.
The CA has been considering imposing steeper penalties on operators that offer poor-quality voice, data and messaging services.
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