Consumer protection Rohan Samarajiva firstname.lastname@example.org This work was carried out with the aid of a grant from the International Development Research Centre, Canada and UKaid from the Department for International Development, UK.
Agenda • Consumer protection: the law • Consumer protection: telecom and other utilities • When exit option is not available • Using newly available ICT connectivity to • Create a better consumer experience • Improve complaints handling
Regulation and consumer protection • Does regulator have authority over “consumer protection”? • No authority. General consumer authority • No authority. Specialized consumer body • Concurrent authority • Authority to set policy and procedures
Telecom v other utilities • Exit and voice options • In a monopoly, voice is the only option • In a fully competitive market, exit is preferred option • Exit is a significant factor in workably competitive markets such as telecom • In such settings, regulator can leverage competitive forces by • Increasing information • Reducing barriers to exit
Example: S. Asian broadband users get lower value for money than North American users Source: September 2009, LIRNEasia
Reducing barriers to exit • No handset subsidies in Asia unlike in Europe and America • Therefore, no contracts, locked SIMs
But information-based solutions can be used • Set standards • Involve customers in ensuring standards are met • Build in incentives • Example of fixed telephony fault reporting in 1998-99 • Objective was not to “fine” the operator but to create incentives to improve systems • Complaints recording systems, and • Maintenance systems
Focus must be on prevention • Not on improved complaints handling, though that should be improved too • Can data mining/business analytics be used? • Example of rudimentary analysis of complaints in 1998 • Why not by companies? • Competitive environment v monopoly • Can regulation compel?
Complaints process • Must be according to law • Adhere to principles of natural justice • How can accessibility of telecom be used? • Requirement of “complaint in writing” • Why? • How can modern technology be used while keeping the principle?