Mobile companies will pay their customers Sh10 each for every call dropped on their networks if a new amendment to the communication laws is passed.
The Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill, 2019 also proposes to allow telecommunication companies to start other businesses outside their industry in what is set to disrupt several sectors.
The proposed amendment seeking to slap mobile firms with these penalties is seen as part of a renewed attempt to push them to improve their quality of services.
Fines will, however, be limited to three per day for every customer.
“A licensee is liable to credit a consumer who initiates a call that gets cut out after a connection by Sh10 worth of airtime for each call drop within its network for a maximum of three call drops per day,” the proposed amendment reads in part.
The bill has now been published in a special issue of the Kenya Gazette and is sponsored by Gem Member of Parliament Elisha Otieno.
But telcos will not be liable to compensate a consumer where a call gets cut off due to third party interference on the licensee’s connection lines, inevitable accident or force majeure.
The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA), the sector regulator, has been looking for ways to punish the mobile firms to address the quality of service, which according to its reports has been deteriorating over time given that growth in subscribers outpacing investment in service improvement.
Last year, it procured a Sh400 million monitoring system it says is helping it to track network performance and customer experience.
Currently, the CA levies a fine of 0.1 per cent of the gross annual revenue of a firm for failing to meet quality standards.
But CA director general Francis Wangusi says these penalties are too low for telcos to feel the pinch, meaning that it is cheaper for them to pay fines rather than invest in quality improvement.
The most recent report suggests that the quality of voice services offered by mobile operators Safaricom, Airtel and Telkom Kenya worsened in 2016.
These saw them collectively fined Sh311.6 million for poor services with market leader Safaricom taking the heaviest hit.
The telco giant was fined Sh270 million while Airtel and Telkom were fined Sh26.6 million and Sh14.9 million respectively. Before the adoption of 0.1 per cent of gross revenue rule, previously firms were fined a flat rate of Sh500,000 which was also deemed to be too lenient.
The amendment will further add pressure on telcos only that, this time, consumers who are affected by these services will now be the beneficiaries of the penalties.
The Bill further seeks to “amend the Kenya Information and Communications Act to make provision for quality of service to consumers making calls by compelling licensees to invest in infrastructure that will guarantee quality of service for consumers making calls,” Gem MP Elisha Otieno says in his memorandum to parliament.
Another significant change to the law is that telecommunication companies will now be allowed to do other businesses other than what they are currently licensed to do as long as they split them from their communication business. If this goes through, it will be music to the ears to firms like Safaricom, who have the financial muscle to venture into multiple businesses, but had been stopped by the law.