Consumer lobby wades into telecoms dominance probe

Stephen Mutoro
Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) secretary general Stephen Mutoro. FILE PHOTO | NMG 

A consumer lobby has opposed a parliamentary inquiry into the ongoing telecoms sector market dominance debate saying it raises jurisdictional, legal, moral and integrity questions.

Consumers Federation of Kenya (Cofek) secretary general Stephen Mutoro told the ICT Committee Thursday that the decision to carry out a parallel process on a matter that the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has not concluded amounts to interference and risks influencing the outcome.

“Pre-empting the process is certain to be counterproductive. We appeal to National Assembly Speaker to make a ruling on the extent to which the House committee can purport to oversight independent regulatory mandate on an ex-ante basis without contravening the Constitution and Statutes and or influencing the decisions of regulatory bodies (CA),” he said in submissions to the committee.

The CA commissioned a study two years ago on dominance in the telecoms sector but a leaked draft report by consultancy Analysys Mason found that Safaricom is a dominant player in the market but had not abused its dominance.

Safaricom #ticker:SCOM, however, rejects the claims and has previously accused authorities of being preoccupied with helping its rivals catch up rather than focusing on consumers.

Marakwet West MP William Kisang-chaired ICT Committee is inquiring into regulatory gaps in the telecoms sector.

It has since questioned five top telco managers over their push for parliamentary intervention to amend the law to regulate the market and declare Safaricom dominant.

The firm dwarfs its top rivals Bharti Airtel and Telkom Kenya that argued that Safaricom enjoys a dominant position since it accounts for 90 per cent of revenues in sectors such as voice calls and text messages.

Safaricom controlled 66.5 per cent of the voice traffic in the three months to March, Airtel 28.7 per cent, Telkom 4.6 per cent and Finserve 0.3 per cent.

Safaricom dealers, who appeared before the committee on Tuesday, opposed the push for infrastructure and agent sharing with rivals that have not equally invested in them.

“Safaricom is a brand and we started from nothing to something today. We see no opportunity in the rest. They have no commissions and we have seen this for last the 15 years we have been there as dealers,” they said.