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Vodafone fixed broadband customers protest capped system

Fixed Broadband customers of Vodafone Ghana have sworn to keep gathering at the headquarters of the telco until the capped broadband system is reversed. 

The group, calling itself the Internet Users Association of Ghana, gathered at the Vodafone Accra North office, moved to the head office at Airport city where they were prevented from entering the premises by the police. 

They later moved to the Ministry of Communication to present a petition to the ministry to stop Vodafone from capping fixed broadband packages at higher prices. 

The group leader, Chris Azu described the capping system as arbitrary because Vodafone has increased prices by about 270% in some cases without consulting customers and other stakeholders. 

He said and the move was only intended by Vodafone to make profit while widening the digital divide, preventing innovation.

They have suggested that Vodafone should maintain the unlimited data package for GHC70 at a speed of 2megabits/sec, and the package for GHC180 at a speed of 12megabits/sec, instead of capping it at 15MB a month for GHC65. 

They are of the view that if Vodafone wanted customers to move to higher packages, the company should rather improve the speeds to attract people to move, instead of using customers’ consumption rate to determine how much they pay.

They are also peeved with the way Vodafone officials have refused to honour their promise to meet with them (the group) on two occasions. 

The group is therefore calling on the National Communication Authority and the Minister of Communication to intervene and bring Vodafone to order. 

We hereby publish the full text of the petition from the group. 

PETITION FOR REDRESS AGAINST UNPRECEDENTED PRICE HIKE POOR SERVICE DELIVERYAND CAP SYSTEM BY VODAFONE GHANA LIMITED.
As clients of Vodafone Ghana Limited, we write to seek redress over poor service delivery, lackadaisical response to customer complaints, and implementation of cap broadband system recently introduced with the intent to amass profits.

On numerous occasions that we individually had problems with our fixed broadband lines it took well over 21 days for technical staff to attend to us and sometimes, they would virtually fail to attend to our complaints. We are of the view that instead of hurriedly capping its clients, Vodafone Ghana Limited should be thinking of improving service quality by being proactive. 

The Internet Users Association of Ghana (IUAG) writes to express its disapproval of the price hike as well as impress upon all stakeholders, particularly the National Communication Authority (NCA) and the Ministry of Communications (MOC) to intervene and have these issues resolved amicably.

On 14th November, 2012, Vodafone Ghana sent text messages to some selected clients to inform them of their intent to change their billing system to a capping system. Vodafone indicated in the correspondence that “Dear Customer from November 28Th 2012 your fixed broadband package will have 15GB of internet allowance valid for 30 days. Your monthly fee will be G¢65.00 per month.” 

Additionally, on 15th November, 2012 Vodafone once again sent a message with the following content; “Dear Customer yesterday’s fixed broadband text message was for new customers only. Your new 15GB allowance starts on 15th December, 2012, Thank you.”

Following the text messages stated above, we the Internet Users Association of Ghana are of the view that Vodafone Ghana Limited is trying to grab more profits from the growth in Internet Services. We are also of the view that even though Vodafone has the right to cap, it would have been appropriate to involve all stakeholders especially when the increase in price goes beyond 270%. 

We as a group think that Vodafone Ghana Limited is only being abusive by trying to take advantage as first movers (because of the Monopoly they enjoy). Instead of providing clients with faster speeds for users and encouraging the growth of services that would require users to upgrade to those speeds, they have taken control of the last mile and have started changing bytes. Inadvertently, instead of paying more for better services, customers are being forced to pay more for what they use. This model works for certain industries like the petroleum and electricity industries.

When it comes to “encouraging more usage and innovation” through the internet, with the aim of bridging the global information divide, the utility model seems short sighted and they should think this same way. For example what would have happened if Intel had told game developers or even Microsoft not to write software that would stress its chips or penalize programmers for every megahertz of data they used over a certain threshold? We would have ended up with crappy software running on slower machines. However, Intel encouraged people to write software for its chips and invested billions of dollars in making them faster so people would migrate.

Judging from Vodafone’s action, we the clientele want to draw the attention of all stakeholders and Ghanaians to the fact that it is high time we looked at the internet as a source of continued innovation instead of a means of amassing unrealistic wealth to the detriment of the ordinary Ghanaian.

We need to categorically state and draw your attention to the fact that we have as a group made frantic efforts to meet the management of Vodafone Ghana Limited to express our disapproval and also have a dialogue with the aim of coming to a compromise, but they (Vodafone) have thwarted all our efforts to meet them. 

On 20/12/2012, we moved to the corporate offices of Vodafone and requested to meet management or schedule a meeting for the amicable resolution of this issue. We were met by one Kofi Mbro (The Head of Corporate Security) who promised to take our plight up to the right quarters and thus scheduled a follow-up meeting that was to discuss our grievances. This meeting was to take place at the Vodafone Head Office, Circle, on 24/12/2012 but the management of Vodafone failed to turn up. Rather they re-scheduled the meeting to 27/12/2012. We obliged to their delay tactics and when 27th December, 2012 finally came they once again failed to show up. This attitude has made us to come to the conclusion that the management is using this trickery to buy time and to refuse to heed to our request for a meeting with them.

Conclusively, we are of the view that whilst other businesses like stores or general commerce gives loyalty rewards to customers who keep coming, Vodafone now sees its clientele as “Bandwidth hogs”.

It is also a known fact that the cap implementation which has just taken place is seriously harmful to innovation due to the price hikes. 

We therefore wish to appeal to all stakeholders to impress upon Vodafone Ghana Limited to:
1. Provide quality and reliable service at all times
2. Give quick response to clients’ complaints at all times.
3. Allow old pricing to stand, thus GH¢70.00 for unlimited access to Data at 2mbps or GH¢180.00 for unlimited access to Data at 12mbps rather than cap at ¢65.00 for 15GB of data (a situation that will widen the global information divide).
4. Give clients prior notice on Policy changes as well as have an avenue to address client grievances before the implementation of such policies.
5. Avoid the imposition of harsh price/tariffs on clients with the aim of amassing wealth for them to the detriment of the ordinary Ghanaian.
6. Give clients a one month compensatory data package losses which came as a result of inefficient communication and abrupt disconnection of service.

Signed 
AG.CHAIRMAN (Christian Azu)
SECRETARY (Reeston M. VONDEE)
Organizer (Kingsley Iheme)
Member (Isaac Yeboah)
cc: 
National Communications Authority,
Ministry of Communications,
Members of the Media

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