A class action has been taken against Scacom Ghana Limited, operators  of Ghana’s biggest mobile phone network, Areeba, for violating relevant  provisions of the National Communications Authority (NCA) Act and  bregulations for high quality of service.

The action comes in the wake of two legal suits initiated by two
shareholders over their interests in the company following its merger
with South African MTN. Also joined to the latest law suit is the NCA,
for failing or neglecting to carry out its regulatory high quality
telephone services for its customers.

The action was filled by the Centre for Public Law, a non-profit public
interest and human rights organisation, and its Executive Director, Dr
Dominic Ayine, on February 13, 2007 on behalf of similarly affected
customers. The plaintiffs have accused Areeba of breach of contract and
are seeking general and punitive damages against it, as well as an
order
for restitution of all money found to have been unjustly collected and
received by the company as of consequence of its acts and omissions.

According to them, the deliberate refusal of Areeba to open its system
up for easy inter-connectivity with other networks in Ghana amounts to
unfair competition contrary to the NCA Act and the Protection Against
Unfair Competition Act.

They are also seeking an order of perpetual injunction to restrain
Scancom Ltd, its agents or assignees from engaging in the conduct that
was the subject matter of the suit. Similarly the plaintiffs are
seeking
an order of mandatory injunction to compel the NCA to enforce Scancom’s
obligation under its licence to expand its network capacity and
coverage
and improve its service quality as well as its inter-connectivity
agreements with other cellular networks.

In their statement of claim, the plaintiffs stated that Scancom Ltd was
registered and licensed by the NCA to provide mobile phone services,
saying figures in the public domain indicated that Areeba was the
market
leader in the provision of mobile or cellular phone services with more
than 2.5 million subscribers quoted on the website of the NCA.

The NCA, they said was the statutory agency responsible for the
regulation of providers of communication services, including, but not
limited to, the operations of the companies, entreprises and
individuals
which provided fixed and mobile telecommunication services. The NCA’s
mandate is derived from the NCA Act, 1996 (Act524) which established
the
authority.

According to the plaintiffs, their action was on behalf of similarly
situated persons and all of those who resided in Ghana and obtained
telecommunication services from Areeba and who had been adversely
affected and suffered material injury or financial loss and
infringement
of their rights as a result of the said acts and omissions. They said
Areeba’s services were of two plans to individuals and business
customers, namely, the “Pay As You Talk” (prepaid) service plan, which
was used with GSM 900 compatible cellular phones and the “Pay Monthly”
(postpaid) service plan, both of which were offered directly to
customers or through designated agents.

The plaintiffs stated that at all material times Scancom Ltd had failed
or neglected to provide good quality cellular services for them in that
they had almost always encountered network congestion, frequent call
dropping, unusual background noise preventing clarity in telephone
conversation, inter-connectivity problems with other networks, among
other problems.

They stated that they were daily confronted with and frustrated by
Areeba’s network congestion problems, such that they had to dial
approximately between five and 10 times before achieving connectivity
and very often every failed dial attempt was met with the automated
response, “The Areeba number you have dialled cannot be reached at this
moment. The mobile equipment is either switched off or out of coverage
area.” According to them, that automated response was materially false
and misleading, since Areeba prided itself as having nation-wide
coverage, and also portrayed the customers as being responsible for
failed attempts to put through calls (for example switching off their
mobile phones), instead of placing the responsibility on Areeba.

They maintained that the representation that the mobile equipment was
either switched off or out of coverage area was not only false but also
wilful since Areeba know or ought to know that it was false at the
material time it was made. As a consequence of the material facts
stated, the plaintiffs said Areeba’s prepaid customers in particular
lost their telephone credit for units on their expiry date, thereby
unjustly enriching Areeba since more units had to be bought after that.

According to the plaintiffs, they had suffered and continued to suffer
financial loss as a consequence of the frequent call dropping resulting
from network congestion. “This is due to the fact that when calls drop
in the middle of a conversation , the plaintiffs have to call again,
and
in doing so they have to pay higher call rates per minute than would
have been the case without the call dropping” they said. The plaintiffs
said Areeba had deliberately and purposefully engaged in acts, methods,
and practices which had frequently frustrated them in putting through
calls to other cellular networks or being called by users of the
services of those networks.
(SOURCE: Daily Graphic)

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