Deregulation promises to lower prices through competition. To help reap the benefit of a deregulated Telecommunication, Energy and Internet environment in The Gambia, consumers must be able to make informed choices about their service options. One of the concerns of the Gambia Public Utilities Regulatory Authority is to empower consumers with information, education and the confidence they need to get the best deal they can from the market place.
The Consumer Parliament is an innovative public awareness and interaction programme during which consumers of Communications services: Telephone ( fix and wireless), prepaid calling card, internet services, (i.e. VSAT domestic services), and Electricity, Water & Sewerage services come face-to-face with the operators and are given the opportunity to express their view and complaints to them.
Generally, consumers need to be equipped to be able to shop around, to know where to go to obtain comparative information on products and services. Although it is possible to rely on (and indeed the service providers) to provide consumers with the necessary information and advice they need. Unfortunately our experiences with the sectors we regulate show that this is not the case. More often than not, operating companies are not too keen to provide adequate information about their products and service.
Therefore, in order to bridge this gap, and pursuant to it mandates to INFORM, EDUCATE and PROTECT consumer, PURA through the Consumer Affairs Directorate, devotes significant time and resources to consumer information and education. It is therefore in this sprit that we created the consumer parliament.
The consumer Parliament creates more awareness of the rights of the consumer and the obligations of the service providers in the resolution of their problems and concerns.
The first Consumer Parliament launched in December 2008 at the Paradise Beach Hotel. Since then three more have been done in Banjul, Kanifing and Brikama.
The Parliament also serves as a platform to enable operators to clarify issues pertaining to their service delivery, and to publicly give account of the ways in which they provide services to the subscribers.
The pictures above show PURA's Consumer Affairs Assistant helping an elderly consumer lodge a complaint at the Consumer Parliament held in Banjul, with QCELL's Technical Director responding to another complaint.
The feedback from such sessions are used by the Authority to initiate regulatory intervention which creates an enabling environment for competition among operators in the industry as well as ensuring the provision of qualitative and efficient telecommunication, Internet and Energy services throughout the country.