Ugandans’ Anger Mounts Over MTN, Airtel Deplorable Services

approved what is ed geneva; font-size: small; line-height: 200%;”>The petition was handed to State Minister for Technology Hon Nyombi Thembo by Managing Director Uganda Consumers’ Protection Association [UCPA] Mr Sam Watasa during a dialogue organized by Uganda Communications Commission in Kampala.

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Available records indicate that the number of mobile subscribers in Uganda today had reached 17 million, who make a total of 16 billion calls a year.

In the petition, consumers raised a concern on the escalating unsolicited messages sent to them by service providers and third party content managers on behalf clients, such as SMS Media, SMS One and others.

“This does not only reflect unlawful intrusion on customers but in many circumstances consumers say they have been made to pay for receiving certain messages.”

Consumers also decried the deteriorating quality of help services offered by telecom call centers, which they say are becoming ineffective by the day.


During the discussion, participants heaped blame on MTN Uganda and Airtel as the worst telecom in the country due to poor network, cheating airtime after incomplete calls, poor internet services among others.

They expressed frustration that government was not acting strongly to protect customers against the cheating telecoms.

The development comes against the backdrop of a UCC report that showed an accumulation of complaints regarding over charging for services or excessive deduction of credits, refunds or bill adjustments.

Customer continue to struggle with cases of dropped balance, inappropriate billing, non-crediting of account, and non delivery of service paid for, multiple SMS and undelivered SMS.

UCC also discovered other issues affecting telecom consumers such as unsolicited text messages where a specific amount of money is forcibly charged from their airtime; inaccessibility of lines and other services, general network quality, and nonchalant attitude of call agents; unwanted calls to consumers by the service providers usually promoting a particular product/service; hectic mobile money transactions for different telecom operators; erratic internet services and subscribers not getting the agreed speed and bandwidth.

Some subscribers are being disconnected from using internet service prior to expiration of validity days.

Participants today urged government to expedite plans to slap heavy sanctions on cheating telecoms.

Tweheyo pours out his heart

James Tweheyo, General Secretary Uganda National Teachers Union [UNATU] charged:

“I have been using my mobile number 0701310010 since 2006 until January 3rd this year. I made my last call with this line on the airport as I set off for a one month trip to Denmark. On returning to Kampala, I found that the line had been switched off and when I called the service provider and visited their offices on Jinja road, I was told that the number belonged to a one Isaac Musasizi.”

He added: “I am a leader and have responsibility over 160,000 teachers in the country, all of whom reach on this number. I wrote to Airtel Manager and copied the letter to CID Directorate by to date I have never been responded to.”

Watasa says enough is enough with telecoms’ shoddy services

Consumers in the petition also highlighted in unwanted telephone calls from service providers promoting specific products or services that keep coming even when rejected by recipients.

This they say comes along with unsolicited calls including those carrying political campaign messages.

Money transfer service charges, the petition reads, are confusion for consumers at best, and remain unexplained.

“Consumers want to know the constitution of these charges so that they are not always taken by surprise when revised.”

Service providers were also attacked from the side of charges on unsolicited ringtones to consumers, yet even when they complain, no correction action is taken.

Telecoms speak out

The representation of telecom companies in their defence on such charges, said that that they too were private companies that needed to make money for their shareholders.

“You realize for instance that billboards in the city were banned. We are left with not much option but to use our customers handsets as the billboards through which information on our value added services is extended to them,” said Airtel’s Denis Kakonge.

He added: “We incur heavy costs trying to extend our infrastructure far and wide by then thieves who vandalise they on a daily basis are another setback. It’s not fair for us to keep meeting such costs. For example, about 106,000 litres of diesel was stolen from out masts last year together with 450 backup batteries.”

Consumers were also blamed from accidentally triggering some of the messages they receive and then blaming it on the service providers.

“If you make a call and you are told, ‘to copy this caller tune press * and you accidentally press it and get charges, who is to blame?” he noted.

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