New bylaw to allow consumers to make claim for service interruptionIf a customer is hampered by network issues, telecom operators will have to compensate them for the downtime.
Nepal’s telecom regulator is implementing a new bylaw from April 14 that will allow consumers to make a monetary claim in the case of inconvenience caused by network issues more than determined time.
The regulator—Nepal Telecommunications Authority—said that the telecom service operators would have to compensate their customers if the service is hampered due to a network failure.
The new bylaw will supersede the existing bylaw related to telecommunication service quality.
The new bylaw has determined the quality of service which needs to be followed by telecommunications service providers, mobile service providers, and internet and data service providers.
According to the bylaw, for example, if you buy a data or voice package for 15 minutes a day and if the network gets down at that time, the customer needs to be provided with the same amount of compensation.
In the case of fixed broadband, if the internet service provider fails to provide service for more than the time duration technically set by the bylaw, the company should waive the charges equal to the time duration.
Or the company should provide free service for that time duration.
The consumer rights activists said that though there were provisions for compensation in the Consumer Protection Act 2018, the new bylaw has specifically made a provision.
“That’s in fact good for consumers,” said Bishnu Prasad Timilsina, general secretary of the Forum for Protection of Consumer Rights-Nepal.
“The new bylaw has provisioned compensation to the consumer in case of service interruption without prior information or notice. This is a landmark decision but there are many loopholes to make it effective.”
The bylaw has provisioned to return the money of the period of service interruption as compensation but it does not talk about the compensation that actually causes damages to the customer due to failure of service, Timilsina said.
“If the internet service gets interrupted and customers get compelled to use mobile data to use the service, the compensation of using mobile data needs to be provided,” he added.
“The compensation is also provided if the customers file the complaint. But the complaint handling mechanism is not easy and all the customers are not aware of it.”
Both the telephone and internet service providers' representatives were present when the bylaw was drafted.
“We don’t have any issue with the new bylaw,” said Sudhir Parajuli, president of Internet Service Providers’ Association Nepal.
“We have been providing the compensation. We also have our internal setup to measure the quality of service.”
Nepal Telecom’s customer has been complaining about service interruption time and again.
The cases have been on the rise in the past few months.
Customers have been complaining about the top-up system failure of the telecom as well.
Shobhan Adhikari, spokesperson of Nepal Telecom, said that the service interruption is caused by various reasons.
“As of now, we didn’t have any compensation payment provisions. The network interruption causes due to various reasons and it becomes difficult to separate what exactly caused the service interruption.”
“The network gets interrupted due to the problem in the devices and locations,” said Adhikari.
Adhikari said they have been regularly submitting their key performance indicators report to the authority.
A committee has been formed regarding the service interruption of Nepal Telecom time and again.
Under the customer interest provision of the bylaw, the mobile service providers make provisions so that customers can check the data usage or volume by themselves.
The fixed internet service provider needs to make provisions to check the details of internet service bandwidth being used by customers themselves through a multi-router traffic graph.
In case of service interruption in fixed broadband or reconnection of the service, the fixed internet service provider needs to provide the information or notification through SMS or other mobile apps.
The automatic ticketing system needs to be provisioned to address customer grievances.
If the telephone service providers and fixed internet service providers do not follow the standards and conditions, the bylaw has provisioned to take action as per Telecommunications Act, 1997.
According to the bylaw, the telecom service providers need to a report of quality measurement in a period of every three months and submit the report within 10 days of working days to the authority after the end of every quarter.
An annual report on the quality of service also needs to be prepared by the service providers within two months of ending of the fiscal year to the authority which will also need to be kept public.
The telecom service providers need to manage the equipment and other resources for quality measurement, according to the bylaw.
The service providers also need to conduct a regular survey in the areas of service operation through e-mail, internet, apps, SMS and another form regarding the quality of experience.
Looking at the past records, Timilsina said that he is less hopeful that the new bylaw will improve the telecommunications service quality.
According to the authority, there is one basic telecommunications service, two basic telephone services, 2 GSM cellular mobile services, 22 network service providers and 138 internet (with e-mail) services) in the country till mid-December of the last year.
According to the management and information system report of the authority, the country has a total of 37.15 million telephone subscribers in the country where 124.45 percent are mobile users and 2.77 percent are fixed telephone users till mid-December of the last year.
Similarly, there are 38.25 million internet subscribers in the country where 94.25 percent are mobile broadband subscribers and 36.52 percent are fixed broadband internet service users.