MTN faces UCC probe amid mobile money storm


Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) is set to roll out a team to investigate telecommunications company MTN Uganda on wide-ranging issues, a spokesperson for the Commission confirmed to SautiTech on Thursday.

The development comes amidst a stormy exchange that kicked off on Sunday when Makerere University School of Law Lecturer, Dr. Busingye Kabumba launched an extended outcry, bemoaning the process of recovering one’s money when it’s sent to a wrong number via the MTN Mobile Money service.

The academician had days ago sent money meant for some kin to an unintended number, and he was surprised by the process he had to go through to recover the money.

According to the telco’s current internal policy which has been emphasised by multiple MTN officials, when money is sent to a wrong number, you contact their customer care service, who then connect with the (wrong) receiver of the money to authenticate the reversal transaction.

And when the receiver withdraws the money before it is reversed or frozen, your case cease being MTN’s responsibility but a subject of court. (You also have an option of convincing the receiver to reverse the money, according to MTN.)

“In the event that somebody reports that money to us late and the money is already withdrawn,” said Monday MTN Uganda Manager for Corporate Communications Val Okecho, “there is nothing much we can do.”

A robust campaign dubbed #MTNMweddeko has now been embraced by many tweeps, with majority sharing their past experiences with the system and other giving views on how this policy is illogical and too slow to help a customer.

MTN, on the other hand, say they can’t break protocol if even the rules are unfair; they say they have boosted their interface to allow users to recognise people they are sending money to avoid such issues.

Amidst this public uproar, UCC Executive Director Godfrey told Reuters on Wednesday that he was going to enlist a team that would investigate into the matter, emphasising that they won’t renew the company’s license before this is sorted.

MTN Uganda’s 20-year licence, secured in 1998, expires in October. On April of this year a public hearing was held and the communications regulator, interestingly, commended MTN for its 20 years of quality service.

The commission is mandated under section 5(1) (J) of the Uganda Communications Act 2013 to receive, investigate and arbitrate complaints relating to communications services and take necessary actions.

Speaking to SautiTech on Thursday, Pamela Ankunda, the commission’s head of public and international relations, said the investigation won’t be only about mobile money but other issues the public has been complaining about.

When asked for details of the investigation Ankunda asked us to call her after an hour, saying she was “moderating a session”, but after that time, she couldn’t pick up our phone.

If this investigation is carried out, it may end up extending to other telecom operators since they also, even when they differ in other areas of the mobile money service, say they can’t help a customer once the wrong receiver has withdrawn money.

Nearly all of Uganda’s 24 million mobile subscribers also have a mobile money account, according to UCC.

MTN is the biggest telecommunications company in Uganda, and in 2017 it reported a revenue growth of more than Sh1.3 trillion.

Before the move by UCC, Dr. Kabumba had called on MTN officials to either come for a dialogue on revamping the company’s policies or he launches a lawsuit against the company’s policies. MTN opted for the latter.

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