airtel Kenya now says its Vodafone owned rival Safaricom has effectively slowed down the three week old Mobile Number Portability (MNP) process, by erecting numerous technical blockades that have derailed efforts of over 6,500 dissatisfied customers to migrate from their network.
In a letter to the Communications Commission of Kenya, CCK, Director General Mr. Charles Njoroge, the company says Safaricom had now adopted a new tactic to subvert the MNP process. “It was a refreshing moment to have had a resolution on the matter we raised with you on Safaricom last weekend and while we appreciated the quick solution then, we have now run into yet another brick wall with Vodafone’s Safaricom. The matter this time round is that some customers wishing to move to Airtel from Safaricom are unable to complete the porting process because the SMS’ that they send to 1501 are not being delivered,” says Mr. Rene Meza, airtel Kenya Managing Director.
Mr. Meza said if the underhand tactics employed by Safaricom to defeat MNP are left unpunished, customers will not experience the anticipated freedom. “We initially thought that this was due to a simple and isolated case affecting a few customers, following which we launched an investigation and went to the extent of buying Safaricom SIM cards which we have taken through the process over the last 48 hrs with no success with a similar result.”
Airtel says it was unfortunate that the Vodafone owned company had on several occasions deliberately failed to address the issues hampering the smooth implementation of the MNP process: “We have also escalated this matter to Safaricom who seem to have now perfected the art of what in our view is deliberate non-cooperation and flagrant disregard of the smooth implementation of the MNP processes…and even so, they ought not to make their bad customer experience to be deemed as an industry standard from their refusal to act on this matter.”
Mr. Meza added that the continued violation of the agreed process by Safaricom is retrogressive, anti-competitive and against the law further defeating the efforts of the authorities to offer customers a chance to move freely and enjoy the services of the network of their choice. “Airtel is now at the risk of being labeled as the cause of the bad experience of thousands of customers affected by this lack of co-operation in resolving MNP issues by Safaricom since the introduction of MNP. These customers may not understand that the reason for the delay in their porting requests is not on our side but on Vodafone’s Safaricom. They believe it is Airtel’s responsibility to see through their requests to move, especially after expressing their dissatisfaction with Safaricom services in preference for Airtel, and taken the trouble to go and initiate the porting process at our customer contact centers.”
Last week, while acknowledging that the MNP process may have been bogged down by technical hitches, CCK Director General Charles Njoroge directed operators to solve such issues expeditiously. “As a result of the technical challenges, some ported numbers were not accessible in the recipient networks, resulting in non-seamless customer experience. Assurances were given that the causes of the glitches had been identified and to a large extent resolved, and that the pending ones would be sorted out by the end of today (13th April 2011),” Mr. Njoroge said after the operators meeting last week.
Airtel says it is now convinced that the Vodafone owned company is not committed to solving the “problem” amicably. “It is unfortunate that the power of the customer is being taken for granted. Let us retain customers on our networks through professional and ethical means and not underhand tactics which smirk of arrogance and to some extent bullying,” he said.
Mr. Meza said he was confident that Kenya’s telecommunication sector was ready to embrace MNP since it would increase competitiveness in the sector by making the customer king. Customers wishing to change operators are required to fill in a porting request form, send an sms to 1501, to initiate the process then pay a one -off fee of Kshs200, a fee that airtel has waived for customers choosing to join its network.