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Friday, Dec 13th

Support gains for Botswana telecoms equipment standards

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Prior to the 1 September deadline the Botswana Communication Regulatory Authority (BOCRA) has set for retailers to stop selling phones that are not type approved, the clampdown has started gaining support.
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The department of consumer affairs says the initiative could help curb soaring consumer complaints on cellphone products.

Selina Katini, from the department’s consumer protection unit, says the country’s increased uptake of cellphones has also lead to rising consumer related complaints regarding retailers selling inferior and counterfeits products.

“We hope that the type approval will help reduce such problems,” Katini says, citing that the complaints range from ‘freezing’ cellphones, poor network reception, disclaiming or limiting implied warranties and batteries with low lifespans.

The consumer protection unit has further said some purported brand new cellphones are nothing than recycled devices.

“We have an influx of complaints, including minor complaints that can be resolved at shop assist level coming to our offices,” Katini adds.

According to BOCRA, type approval of equipment is intended to ensure that all communications equipment used on the country’s networks are electrically safe, electromagnetically compatible and capable of internetworking with other equipment without causing interference.

A total of 223 complaints have been received at the Consumer Protection Unit headquarters offices in Gaborone since January and officials estimate that over 1,000 cases have been reported across the country in its different branches.

“Once BOCRA start implementing type approval, we will order retailers found selling unapproved cell phones to refund the consumer and make sure the necessary measures are taken,” Katini says.

BOCRA has also urged consumers to assist in policing retailers to make sure they adhere to selling type approved cellphones.

“The consumers should be vigilant and make sure that they buy equipment that confirm to the set standards,” says Pheko Thari, chief executive of BOCRA.

“Consumers are the ones that can clean-out non-compliant gadgets by not buying the gadgets,” says Thari.

He further allayed fears that type approval implementation could create barriers at any stage of the communications ecosystem.

“It’s not supposed to be a stumbling block to entry into the market but help build consumer confidence.”

Adding to his sentiments, Bathopi Luke -- director of technical services at BOCRA -- says the type approval implementation is to guard against poor signal reception and interference and protect the public network from sub-standard cell phone.

Guided by telecommunication technical specification of 2005, the implementation of type approval under the Botswana Communication Regulation Act indicates that offenders could be fined by between ten thousand pula and 2 million pula or a maximum of a ten years imprisonment.

BOCRA has also warned distributors against merely downloading the technical specifications from the internet and forging declaration of conformity from manufacturers, indicating that intense investigations may be conducted by the authority.

“We have realised that there are gaps and we will be reviewing the specifications to update them,” said Luke.

Meanwhile the world leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company SGS has also applauded Botswana for the implementation of type approval for communications equipment in the country.

“It’s a good path that Botswana is taking, the positive side is that type approval level the playing field for the business community,” said Tammy Naidoo, general manager - Southern Africa at SGS.

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