Airtel has made some drastic changes to its products and services within the last 24 hours with the telecom company scrapping off its popular weekly SMS Bundles without informing the customers.
According to reports, Airtel Uganda’s SMS Bundles underwent drastic changes just within an overnight. The bundles in question that were dropped completely from the menu without the customers being informed about it were the weekly SMS bundles – sources within the company stated.
The products in question include the Weekly 700 SMS text bundle which are no longer available. Customers now only have the option for daily SMS bundles which include 100 SMS at Shs 250 daily and the Daily Plus at Shs. 500.
The same can be said for MTN, which also made changes to its SMS bundles recently, however, it kept its weekly bundle. Earlier, the weekly bundle used to offer 500 SMS for a week but now it’s down to 200 at Shs 1,000.
According to the sources, the bold move is being taken as a response to the continuous decline in calls made between customers. Telecom companies are now looking for ways to get their clients back to making regular calls which have seen a steep call drop rate starting all the way from 2019. There’s also a possibility that the bundles were not getting much activity so they decided to drop them.
The continuous drop in call rates can also be attributed to the presence of chatting apps such as Whatsapp, Telegram and other forms of technology, which have made communication much easier, faster and cheaper than regular phone calls.
Aside from that, the cost for making calls within a similar network or outside that are still high compared to pricing within other regions such as Kenya and Tanzania. This is also a contributing factor to the decline since users are either opting in for chatting apps or SMS bundles.
Then there’s the concern regarding the quality of service. According to UCC’s blog in 2019, dropped calls, quality of service, unused data bundles and poor customer service were major concerns that affected the telecom industry performance. However, due to advancements in technologies, some of these concerns have seen an improvement since.
Airtel dropping SMS Bundle without the user’s knowledge is seen as a breach of trust
Airtel scrubed its weekly SMS bundles without a formal press release or update to let its customers know, which in a way can be seen as a breach of customer trust. It’s the responsibility of the telecom companies to always inform users of all kinds of changes to their services and products.
The sudden move will also affect the vast majority of users who still rely on these text messages as a means of communication since they don’t use messaging apps, not forgetting that the internet is still considered expensive in Uganda.
When our team reached out to Airtel via their official Twitter about the unavailability of the weekly SMS bundle, this is what they had to say: “Please note that weekly and monthly off-net SMS was removed. Please choose from the remaining options to load your bundle.”
The real reason behind this sudden move hasn’t been ascertained yet and we await an official response from the telecom giant.
There have also been several reports before this where Ugandan telecom companies have made changes to their product and services line without informing the customers. In some instances, Airtel users found themselves unable to access the customer care services line via phone call as they often did earlier directly using the “0” option.
It was later discovered that the ability for users to choose the option to contact an agent directly had been scrapped off the menu and most times customers had to go through loopholes just to get in touch with one. The company had also resorted to social media platforms as the main contact for inquiries yet not all users had access to these platforms.
The bigger question now is, what is the UCC (Uganda Communications Commission) doing about such incidents since it’s the regulatory body responsible for monitoring the activities of the telecoms and making sure that the customers’ needs and concerns are taken seriously.
Users should be aware that they have the right to make complaints and voice out their concerns whenever they face issues with their telecom providers. However, given the monopolistic nature of the telecommunications market in Uganda, users often remain silent about such issues since they have no other better options to switch to. Hopefully, this will change with time.
Article updated: 5:40 PM, 18 Aug 2021
Author: Allan Bangirana
Allan Bangirana has a taste for all kinds of topics and usually writes about tech, entertainment, sports and community projects that make a difference in society.