The two internet services providers, Unique Solutions and Netpage, have a case to answer for failing to show up at a forum that provides an avenue for consumers to come face to face with service providers and collectively address problems and seek solutions in an open and frank manner.
The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) said they are going to fine the two companies for not attending the 4th Consumer Parliament held on 1st October this year at the Gambia Senior Secondary School in Banjul.
However, the regulatory authority has not said how much the two companies will be fine each, but an official of the institution said they are going to do a consultation amongst themselves and come up with whatever the charges is going to be.
PURA is mandated by an act of parliament, the PURA Act 2001, to regulate the public services including communications, electricity, water and sewerage, and Internet Service Providers (ISP).
All the services regulated by PURA with the exception of these two companies attended the forum.
“PURA is facilitating this opportunity for dialogue, exploration, clarification and bringing to the attention of concerned parties, any issues that consumers may have about the services or indeed services provider of the specific services they may have concerned about,” said the director general of PURA, Abdoulie Jobe, during the opening of the consumer parliament which was well attended despite the rainfall.
Consumer parliament is an awareness and interactive programme during which consumers of communications, electricity, water and sewerage services meet face-to-face with the operators and are given the opportunity to express their view and complaints to them
“In short the consumer parliament is one of the regulatory tools or interventions PURA uses as part of the provision of a holistic complaints resolution mechanism in fulfillment of our mandate under the PURA Act 2001,” DG Jobe said.
PURA is mandated to among other things to protect the interest of consumers of the services it regulates, whilst also raising awareness level of consumers through information and educational activities.
Over time PURA has held its consumer parliaments across other administrative areas to including; Kanifing Municipality, West Coast Region, and a national variation of the consumer parliament – the National Bantaba – adapted specifically for the rural communities across the country.
The director general of PURA said all these consumer parliaments have all been a success and highly welcomed and appreciated by the majority of people in the country.
Since 2004, PURA has devoted a significant amount of time and resources in developing its capacity and ensuring that the fundamentals are in place for an effective regulatory institution. “We are conscious that regulation as a practice requires tact and patience and presents many challenges in the various sectors of electricity, water and telecommunications, PURA DG remarked.
In recent times, we have had to assert our mandate and make some tough but equitable decisions not always acceptable by those we regulate but necessary to ensure a level playing field, he explained.
In order to deal with the functions set out in the PURA Act and given the dynamic nature of the development of regulated utilities, PURA should be seen to be ensuring that services are delivered on the basis of quality and affordability.
However, the authority lamented the difficulty to provide universality of services which requires that utility services are accessed by all Gambians irrespective of the geographical location.
Justice Aji Amie Joof who represented the chairman of PURA Board of Directors, told the consumer parliamentarians that it is importance that they express their views on the services they consume which are regulated by PURA.
A very important part of the PURA’s work, according to Justice Joof, is to ensure that Gambians consumers get value for money.
“Our principal role is that both the consumers and the providers are protected,” she clarified.