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Parliament opens probe into telcos mobile money and service charges

Safaricom
A Safaricom outlet and customer care centre on Kimathi Street in Nairobi on Thursday. PHOTO | SALATON NJAU 

Parliament has opened investigations into mobile money services and rates, including transaction charges, transfer fees, loans and interest levied by telecommunication companies.

The parliamentary Committee on Communication, Information and Innovation says the inquiry will also look into mobile airtime and data rates, including airtime loans and service fees.

This means that MPs will scrutinise the charges levied on Kenyans by the four main telcos Safaricom, Airtel, Telkom and Equitel, among others.

The committee said the objective of the investigations is to establish legislative and regulatory gaps affecting competition in the sector and recommend measures to address shortcomings that to lead to anti-competitive behaviour or restrict growth within the sector.

“Of late, concerns have been raised on the alleged abuse of dominance in the telecommunications sector.

“In light of these concerns, the departmental committee on Communication, Information and Innovation has resolved to conduct an inquiry on legislative and regulatory gaps affecting competition in the sector,” the committee headed by Marakwet West MP William Kisang said in a letter notifying the parliamentary leadership and seen by the Saturday Nation.

The committee proposed to meet with and receive oral and written submissions from stakeholders in the telecoms industry.

“The terms of reference for the inquiry is to inquire into the nature, levels and extent of competition in the telecommunications sector under the existing legal framework, with a particular focus on mobile money services and rates, including transaction charges, transfer fees, loans and interest,” the committee said.

The committee said the inquiry will look at the market share of telecommunications service providers, broadband services and rates as well as call and Short Message Service termination fees.

“Particular focus will be directed at the Unstructured Supplementary Service Data and SIM application toolkit access, as well as access to telecommunications infrastructure, including cell towers, ducts, poles and fibre,” the committee, said.

The lawmakers also want to investigate the provision of content services. The committee said the enactment of the Kenya Information and Communications Act, 1998 liberalised the sector to foster healthy competition and innovation to enable provision of quality and affordable services to Kenyans.

“Parliament has over the years amended various provisions of the Act in response to the prevailing circumstances, including rapid developments in technology and the promulgation of the new Constitution,” the committee said.

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