21/03/2017
Airtel
Contact Experience Operations
High Court
It
John Mativo
Kenya
Kenya Consumer Protection Advisory Committee
Leonard
Mativo
Onyango

Airtel customer loses Sh3m compensation bid over network disruption

Mr Leonard Onyango accused Airtel of repeated network disruptions in March last year. He further claimed he lost Sh10,000 on his Airtel Money during the period and a Sh8,000 worth of airtime, as a result of the telco’s failure to ensure security for his line and breach of its obligations.While denying the alleged violation, Airtel admitted they received the complaint about the loss of network.

The High Court has dismissed pleas by an Airtel customer who wanted the telco compelled to pay him Sh3 million for his alleged losses after a network disruption. Mr Leonard Onyango accused Airtel of repeated network disruptions in March last year.He further claimed he lost Sh10,000 on his Airtel Money during the period and a Sh8,000 worth of airtime, as a result of the telco’s failure to ensure security for his line and breach of its obligations.He said the network disruptions denied him a chance of communicating with friends, family and professional colleagues.

Mr Onyango told the court that he complained to the mobile service provider, which advised him to restart his phone. It failed to work and it was then that he was directed to swap his card. The change only worked for one week and a second SIM swap equally failed.While he was still pondering what to do, he allegedly received in succession, text messages stating “Your SIM is successfully updated 21/03/2017, 23.02”. He claimed that he was prompted by a text message follow instructions to set up his new PIN which he did, but his phone could not access the network. The line, he added, was restored on March 25, 2017, but two days later, he discovered Sh10,000 was missing from his Airtel Money Account. Mr Onyango said that even after the reconnection, the line went off again on April 14, 2017. Further, he told Justice John Mativo that he has been receiving notices informing him that he borrowed Sh1,170 from “KOPACASH” a platform operated by Airtel.

He moved to court accusing the mobile operator of violation of his constitutionally and statutory protected consumer rights.In reply, the mobile operator, through Victor Otieno, the Contact Experience Operations Manager told the court that the efficacy, efficiency and quality of telecommunication services depends on the quality of services offered and other industry support sector players such as mobile phone manufacturers and the behaviour of the customer operating the communication device.While denying the alleged violation, Airtel admitted they received the complaint about the loss of network. However, Airtel said, the matter was promptly addressed and there was no further complaint from Mr Onyango.And in “good faith”, Airtel said, it refunded the Sh10,000 he allegedly lost, notwithstanding the obscurity of the circumstances leading to the loss and Mr Onyango’s own negligence or collusion in the loss.The company’s IT department told the court that the server showed that Mr Onyango’s line was functioning well and it appears that there was a deliberate switch-off from end.Data captured from his line also showed that there has been multiple SIM replacements by Mr Onyango, an activity known to cause malfunction in SIM cards, the court heard.Airtel told the court to dismiss the case, arguing that the Kenya Consumer Protection Advisory Committee should facilitate conflict resolution on consumer issues.The telco said the committee is the appropriate place where the complaint should have been taken to and the petition had been wrongly filed in court.On hearing the case, Justice Mativo ruled that Mr Onyango had nothing to show that Airtel acted illegally or in any manner violated his consumer rights. “It is also my finding that the petitioner ought to have utilised the dispute resolution mechanism provided under the statute and only approach the High Court by way of appeal if aggrieved by the decision of the Appeals Tribunal,” he said. Worse still, the judge added, Mr Onyango did not attempt to explain the reasoning behind his assertion that the alleged network failure was caused by the SIM card. In any event, the judge added, he is not competent to make such a conclusion.According to the court, the explanation required an expert opinion. “The expert will be required to convince the court of his expertise, training, experience and take the court through the entire telecommunication technology involved and how he has isolated the problem and the possible cause of the problem,” he said.

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