Safaricom and Airtel have warned that proposed guidelines that allow subscribers to switch telecommunication providers irrespective of whether they have outstanding mobile money debts will lead to high risks of default.
The two leading mobile operators now want the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) to review the proposal, arguing that mobile cash borrowers may abuse it by changing providers to avoid or delay payments.
The proposal, published on Friday, is part of new guidelines that the CA says will make switching between telecommunication providers much easier.
The mobile number portability (NMP) technology, introduced in Kenya in 2011, allows subscribers to change mobile providers without losing their preferred numbers.
It has however not lived to its billing forcing the CA to come up with the new proposals that include shortening the period required to switch providers from the previous two days to four hours.
The CA also wants the porting process to be done irrespective of whether there are outstanding payments and/or contractual obligations on the number being ported.
“We feel that there is need for the regulator to reconsider this position as allowing customers to port their numbers without settling the amounts owed to the operator may contribute significantly to debt accumulation with the possibility of defaulters changing networks to avoid payment,” said Airtel Kenya CEO Adil El Youssefi.
“Due to the increasing number of SIM-based value-added services, we believe this position will expose our partners (such as banks) to increased risk of defaulters. These cases would have to be reported to the Credit Reference Bureau,” said Steve Chege, the Safaricom director for corporate affairs.
Safaricom says it has since the inception of the MNP in 2011 automated the process, which allows the firm to port subscribers in less than the proposed four hours.
Francis Wangusi, the director-general CA however insists that the telcos have the option of taking legal actions against defaulters but only after they have been switched to the operator of their choice.
“Porting shall be allowed even where there are outstanding debt payments and/or contractual obligations with the donor operator.
However, the customer is still obliged to fulfil any contractual obligations with the donor operator, including payment of any fees or outstanding charges after the port is completed,” Mr Wangusi said.
Besides post-paid subscribers who may want to switch networks, Safaricom and Airtel also have partnered with banks to offer mobile banking loans payable monthly and which the two operators see will be negatively impacted by this new rule.
Safaricom, for example, has partnered with Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) to offer M-Shwari which offers customers a platform to save money on their mobile phones and later borrow loans that are repayable within a month.
Source: Business Daily