A new government policy to protect Qatar consumers
A new Telecommunications Consumer Protection Policy will take effect in Qatar, which includes a strengthened system for monitoring and enforcing compliance with the rules, and a provision for an independent dispute resolution process.
The Ministry of Information Communications Technology (MICT) is expected to enforce the new policy three months from the date of its announcement, which was in early January, according to the official document. All obligations reiterated in the new policy are already in effect.
According to the press statement released by the MICT, “The policy brings together the existing obligations on service providers in one document, and also imposes a set of new obligations on operators to ensure that they compete fairly.” The new policy is one of a number of steps ictQATAR has taken to increase regulations and oversight of the telecoms market, which enjoys a duopoly, and in some areas a monopoly, placing customers at a significant disadvantage.
The policy includes an improved system to monitor and enforce compliance, stated MICT. There is also a provision for a dispute resolution process for unresolved complaints by service providers that will be independent of the operator. If the General Secretariat, which resolves disputes, determines that the provider is at fault, it could be required to make a private or public apology, an explanation of what went wrong, take action to prevent future occurrences and finally the potential for a refund for services or financial restitution.
“The draft policy will ensure that operators are acting in the interests of consumers.” - Dr. Eiman Al Ansari, ictQATAR.
Access to dispute resolution is free to retail customers, but will only be accessible if the service provider has not resolved an issue satisfactorily within 30 days.
“ictQATAR already operates an independent complaints service, which consumers can contact if they are dissatisfied,” said Dr. Eiman Al Ansari, the manager for Consumer and Government Affairs, Regulatory Authority at ictQATAR, “But the improvements made through the draft policy will make it more effective and better able to ensure that operators are acting in the interests of consumers.”
Also included in the policy was the provision for clear and accurate billing. Late last year, ictQATAR opened for public consultation a proposal to force service providers to apply customer credit limits in order to prevent ‘bill shock’. The billing process under the new policy must be “plain, simple and [in an] easy-to-understand format, and provide accurate information on the services provided, the amounts due for each service and the method of calculation or tariffs for any service on which invoices are based, on the length of calls or other measure of usage,” stated the policy document.
The policy was developed following a public consultation with major telecom service users, and will be reviewed not less than every two years.