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NATCOM imposes fine for exploitation of consumers

NATCOM imposes fine for exploitation of consumers

On Friday 10th June 2016, the National Telecommunications Commission imposed a stiff fine of Two Hundred and Fifty Million Leones (Le250M) on the Sierra Leone Transnational Limited, the sole agent for Multi Choice in Africa, for what NATCOM describes as “exploitation” of the people of this country.

Addressing newsmen at NATCOM headquarters, Hill Station, Director of Communications, Abdul Kuyeteh, said it was barely three months since they decided to take stance against mobile and IPS operators. “We at NATCOM, our business is to regulate the business spectrum of how all mobile and IPS operators operate in the country,” he maintained. He furthered that on the 9th of May 2016, Transnational exorbitantly increased their charges. After NATCOM carefully investigated the exchange rate of the Leone to the Dollar, it found out that Transnational (SL) Ltd. over-valued the dollar rate to the detriment of consumers.

He explained that the general exchange rate is Le6,350, 00 to the Dollar $1 but that Transnational enjoyed a swift transfer exchange rate of Le6, 250.00 to the Dollar from Ecobank.

NATCOM discovered that the company charged consumers Le 6,500.00, making an extra profit of Le1,800.00 from each subscriber.  “We all agreed that there should be no increase,” he said, “So as a Commission responsible to regulate their functions, we wrote them a letter asking them to revise their decision over the cost increment because they did not consult the Commission as was agreed by both parties in our last meeting,” Mr Kuyateh explained.

In his statement, Momoh Konte, the NATCOM Chairman, said that after assuming office he engaged the company in a meeting wherein fruitful discussions were held. He reiterated that they at NATCOM regulate operators in the country to protect consumers, charging that Transnational is undermining the country’s Stock Exchange.

He continued: “The Commission sees this as undermining the economy of the country which is unacceptable. At least we expect them to use the normal exchange rate – Le 6,350.00.”“As a Commission,” Momoh Konte went on, “We are not interested in fines; we want the right thing to be done within the confines of the laws of the country so we have therefore given them a seven working days ultimatum to pay the fine.” He disclosed that the Commission is presently looking at the documents of the company that apply to broadcast spectrum to see if they are in line with the government policy.  One-fourth of the fine goes to the Consolidated Revenue Fund and the rest to run the affairs of the Commission, he said.

“We are also mindful of our Corporate Social Responsibility,” Momoh Konte added. “We have approved funding for the Fourah Bay Collage media department and you all know our interventions in the fight against Ebola.”

Making his contribution, Commissioner Ambassador Alieu Kanu of the Independent Media Commission (IMC) described the fining of the company as good news for the people of this country because, according to him, for far too long they have been exploited. “So we all as implementing partners are in full support of the action taken by NATCOM,” he noted.

He added that they came to witness the press conference to support NATCOM, saying they had received a lot of complaints from the public about Transnational and that whatever action NATCOM took against the company they were fully in support of.

He said they had had a lot of consultations with NATCOM and underlined that Section 7(2) of the IMC Act empowers NATCOM to levy fines against non-compliant operators who fail to comply with the country’s Telecoms Act.

Ibrahim Kabia, President of the Consumer Protection Agency, said he now sees a new NATCOM. He stated that all these years, companies think they are above the law but that with the new measures taken by the leadership of NATCOM, the country is now on the right footing. Civil Society Activist, William Sao Lamin, also lent credence to NATCOM’s decision which he said they were fully in support of.

He said that they admire the present leadership of NATCOM and heaped praises on the Chairman, Momoh Konte, for the good job he is doing for NATCOM and the country as a whole. The National Telecommunications Commission (NATCOM) is the entity established by an Act of Parliament in 2006 to regulate the country’s telecommunications sector, protect consumer interest and ensure fair competition among service providers.

By Alim Jalloh

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