Villagers across the vast of Mashonaland Central have commended Postal and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe (POTRAZ)’s Consumer Education and Awareness Campaign, citing that the exercise has given them a platform to air their concerns and understanding latest developments in the telecoms sector.
The telecoms regulator is currently conducting a series of consumer awareness campaigns in various rural centres in the province, interacting with consumers of telecoms products on various sector related issues through road shows.
Most topical has been the network coverage challenges experienced in some areas such as Horse-shoe in Guruve and parts of Mutorashanga where villagers, particularly business operators in these parts are getting a raw deal from service providers as their customers cannot easily transact via mobile phones.
“Here in Mutorashanga business people like us are losing lots of money from poor network coverage. Our customers have to pay twice or thrice before I get the notification of the payment and later on it then reflects that the customer has paid 2 or 3 times for the same product.
“Due to network challenges, you can’t get through to the call centres of these service providers so I’m forced to reimburse the customer their money and I’m charged unnecessary transaction costs. I think POTRAZ you have done well to come here and hear this for yourselves,” said Leonard Alioni, a store owner in Mutorashanga.
In a snap survey by 263chat Business, most small businesses in some parts of Mutorashanga no longer accept electronic and mobile money transfers as modes of payment, preferring hard cash owing to poor network coverage.
Another villager, Shepison Mhako, of Ternanog farm in Horseshoe area in Guruve was equally concerned about sporadic network coverage.
“We are facing serious network challenge across all networks here, particularly in the Horseshoe area. We have to climb trees and mountains for us to receive signals to call our relatives.
“They cannot call us back. We are lately informed of funerals or weddings that would have taken place without our knowledge as relatives have to wait only for us to call them because they cannot get through to us,” Mhako said.
POTRAZ has been calling for infrastructure sharing among service providers to ease network coverage challenges and the project is now taking shape as recently seen by the “3 in 1” network boosters being set across the country to alleviate the challenge.
While most of the other areas had a generally satisfactory network coverage, consumers are bemoaning the price adjustments of various data bundles by service providers.
Recently the price of data bundles for social media platforms such as Whatsapp and Facebook took a sharp increase of more than 100 per cent across all three networks.
This has resulted in a barrage of attacks on Potraz on the assumption that it has hiked regulatory data prices.
POTRAZ Consumer Affairs manager Phibion Chaibva said despite an increase in the price of data, prices remain within the prescribed rates that have always been there since 2017.
“What you are seeing is that service providers have just changed the promotional data bundles which were very cheap. Our out of bundle data charges have not changed, it remains 6 cents per megabyte.
“So these promotional data bundles people were used to were just promotional mostly charged at less than 1 cent per megabyte so yes, there is a slight increase but it remains within our regulatory cap of 6 cents per megabyte which always been there. Most of these bundles have been raised to between 1 cent and 2 cents per megabyte,” said Chaibva.
Villagers were taken through responsible and cost-effective usage of data on their mobile phones and also the dynamics behind cross-network calling which is generally costly as compared to intra-network calls.
POTRAZ also took time to give awareness of various scam messages targeting unsuspecting consumers with the intention to swindle them of their hard earned money.
The campaigns are ongoing, with areas covered so far being, Mvurwi, Concession, Glendale, Mutorashanga, Barwe and Nzvimbo.
The campaign is expected to be complete on Saturday having covered marginalised areas such as Mt Darwin and Rushinga.