Fri | Dec 9, 2016

OUR moving fast to address 'cell hell' grouses

Published:Wednesday | February 4, 2015 | 12:00 AM

Yvonne Grinam Nicholson, GUEST COLUMNIST

We have taken note of the article headlined 'Jamaica's cell hell', published in The Gleaner on Monday, January 19, 2015, written by your columnist, Dr Garth A. Rattray.

Dr Rattray chronicled his unfortunate quality-of-voice-service experiences with our two major telecommunications service providers, Digicel and LIME, and spoke to issues such as dropped calls, busy network and dead zones.

The author further expressed his disappointment in the regulating bodies, the various government administrations, as well as the consumer-protection entities that remain silent "on these very serious and egregious issues".

"We are getting extremely poor service, and no one is helping us," Dr Rattray ends his article.

We write to assure Dr Rattray of the Office of Utilities Regulation's (OUR) continuing role in ensuring the improvement of the quality of service delivered to consumers by the major service providers within the telecommunications industry initiative in this area.

The Telecommunications Act and the Office of Utilities Regulation Act establish as objectives for the OUR, encouraging competition and protecting the interests of consumers. As part of its measures to achieve these objectives, the OUR intends to exercise its powers to establish quality-of-service standards for the telecommunications industry.

We are pleased to report that the OUR is one step closer to formalising these quality-of-service standards. Stakeholders, including customers of the telecommunications companies, were recently invited to give their feedback on proposed rules for quality-of-service standards for the telecommunications sector. We published notices in the newspapers inviting comments.

Comments From Stakeholders

The 'Quality of Service Standards and Consumer Protection Guidelines for the Telecommunications Sector - Notice of Proposed Rulemaking' (NPRM) document is posted on the OUR's website, www.our.org.jm. During a consultation period spanning November 10, 2014 to January 8, 2015, comments were received from some stakeholders and these are also posted on the OUR's website.

The proposals in the NPRM cover quality standards for fixed telephony, mobile telephony, and Internet access, as well as procedures for handling of consumer complaints. It also includes a General Consumer Code of Practice, which sets out consumer-protection guidelines for the telecommunications sector.

The purpose of this NPRM is to provide a framework to be drafted in the form of rules issued pursuant to Section 44(3) of the Telecommunications Act for Quality of Service obligations.

Among the proposals is to create quality-of-service measurement targets for a number of areas, including customer complaints; customer service call answer rate, dropped call rate; call set-up success rate, mobile network availability; broadband (Internet) availability rate; data transmission speed and several other parameters aimed at measuring network-related quality.

Service providers will be required to periodically measure and report on these parameters. The measurement targets seek to address some of the concerns highlighted by Dr Rattray in his letter.

In order for consumers to have a real choice in a competitive market, it is necessary for them to have comparative information on the characteristics, quality and price of services. In this regard, the OUR proposes to publish quality-of-service measurement data, including service providers' performance against the established targets, on a periodic basis.

We hope that Dr Rattray will keep an eye on this process and lend his support to the thrusts to improve the customer experience by incentivising service providers to pay greater attention to customers' satisfaction indices.

Yvonne Grinam Nicholson is director, consumer and public affairs, OUR. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and ynicholson@our.org.jm.