Potraz gets tough on NetOne

HARARE - The Postal and Regulatory Authority of Zimbabwe (Potraz) has ordered State-owned mobile network operator, NetOne, to compensate subscribers who lost their data bundles in mysterious circumstances in the past few weeks.

Gift Machengete, the Potraz director-general yesterday wrote to NetOne acting chief executive Brian Mutandiro advising him of the directive.

“The authority has noted the billing challenges you are facing with the OneFusion product. We have also noted that you have sent communication to your subscribers advising the same challenges,” he said in the missive seen by the businessdaily.

“Given the extent and magnitude of complaints raised to the regulator by the subscribers we hereby direct you to compensate the affected consumers in accordance with the prejudice they endured. This is done in the spirit of promoting the consumers’ right to complain and redress,” Machengete said.

The latest development comes after the telecommunications regulator was inundated with subscribers complaining about airtime disappearing from their mobile phones.

NetOne, however, blamed social media firm Facebook for the mishap.

“We sincerely apologise for the failure to download or playback media on Facebook (or WhatsApp) using the social media bundle. Just to put you into perspective, Facebook, who are also the owners of WhatsApp, have made some critical changes to their new mobile app to the extent that while content (video, image or audio) may appear to be residing on the Facebook or WhatsApp, it is in actual fact saved on Google or Amazon cloud services,” the company said.

“This we discovered through preliminary investigations carried out by our technical team in conjunction with our other partners. That said, the effect of such file architecture is that while in our system we only configured the IPs provided by Facebook as whitelist, IPs from Google and Amazon to which such download sessions are being redirected are not, thus, making them inaccessible unless you have pure data or real money on your account,” NetOne added.

The mobile firm with over 10 million subscribers noted that when subscribers try to access media files would redirected to either Google or Amazon cloud services which requires real data on the phone to be downloaded.

“The complexity of the matter is that these IPs change all the time, making it very complex for us to come up with a long-term solution to the issue. In that regard, we really appeal for your patience while a more sustainable solution is being worked out. Once again we apologise for the inconvenience caused by this development,” NetOne said.

Meanwhile, Machengete also requested the parastatal to provide Potraz with a database of affected subscribers and how much they were going to be compensated.

“The database will enable us to conduct an audit trail on whether all affected subscribers have been compensated accordingly. The database should be submitted to the authority by February 28, 2018,” he said.

“You are also advised to furnish the authority with measures that you have put in place to ensure that challenges of this nature will not occur,” Machengete added.

The unprecedented move by Potraz comes at a time when ICT minister Supa Mandiwanzira has been urging mobile network operators to improve quality of service.


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