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Bahrain's Telecoms Regulatory Authority has announced that it is setting up a group to promote the rights of consumers in the country

Tags: Telecommunications Regulatory Authority - Bahrain
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By  Mark Sutton Published  July 9, 2008

Bahrain's Telecoms Regulatory Authority has announced that it is setting up a group to promote the rights of consumers in the country. The group will fit into its existing Business Users Advisory Group, which already lobbies for the interests of commercial customers in Bahrain.

One of the new consumer group's first actions has been to push for a consumers bill of rights that sets out what it believes telecoms customers should be entitled to from the country's service providers.

The 16 point Bill of Rights contains some fairly straight forward requests/demands/suggestions, like the right to know when billing rates change or the right to choose which service provider they use,  and some admirable, progressive aims like ensuring rights of access to the disable and low cost services for all, to ensure no-one is excluded or cut off from services.

But what really caught my eye were the two points below:

8. Right of Timely and Responsive Customer Service: Consumers have the right to timely customer service from knowledgeable employees. Consumers have the right to be treated with courtesy and respect. Consumers have the right to speak to a Vendor supervisor if dissatisfied with customer service, and to be informed of this right during the initial complaint process. Consumers have the right to file a complaint with the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) if the problem is not resolved after speaking with a supervisor, and to be informed of this right during the initial complaint process.
9. Right of Quality Service: Consumers have the right to quality service. Local telephone companies must provide and list in their directory a 24-hour repair service number. Consumers have the right to access Service Providers' annual quality of service reports.

Which begs the question: Are the telecoms providers in Bahrain really so bad that it has to be enshrined in a Bill of Rights that they must be polite to their customers and provide the service that the customer is paying for? Surely providing a proper service, and treating customers well is just good business sense?

Unfortunately for many of us who have to put up with these ex-monopoly operators, or even some of the newcomers, we all know far too well that the answer is 'yes'.

Poor coverage, poor service, services that never get installed and faults that never get fixed are far too common. The Bahrain TRA one of the few watchdogs that likes to bark in this region, and this Bill of Rights shows the way forward for how all customers should be treated. In markets where we often don't have a choice of which telecoms operator we use, its essential that regulators stand up for customers, and don't just sit back working out how much can be gained in the next round of licence allocation.

It will be interesting to what happens to this Bill of Rights. The Bahrain TRA locks horns with Batelco on a fairly regular basis, but the two also seem to be able to work together to towards a more mature market.Hopefully this 'Bill' can provide a proper framework for operators, and give customers the legal right to a service that meets the comes up to the standards of a more mature market, and most importantly, gives the watchdog real teeth to bite any operator that doesn't come up to scratch.

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