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MTN goes to war with regulator as new head of legal takes office

MTN Uganda’s CEO Wim Vanhelleputte and UCC ED Godfrey Mutabazi (FILE PHOTO)

KAMPALA – A war brewing up in the communications sector as MTN Uganda take on the industry regulator Uganda Communications Commission (UCC). According to information available, the telecom giant has filed a petition in the High Court seeking self-regulation and supervision. The petition will come up for hearing on July 3.

MTN Uganda in a petition that has surprised the industry, has accused the UCC of working outside of the law and violating principles of natural justice when determining complaints against the telecom giant.

But the UCC in a response to the petition, have dismissed the MTN allegations, accusing the telecoms giant of flouting industry procedures and cheating VAS clients.

“The Applicant ‘sweeping’ measures of deleting the entire database of the subscribers to the 2nd Respondent’s services were only enforced against 3rd party content providers to the exception of the Applicant’s own promotional messages, which was in total contravention of the 1st Respondent’s directive. Copies of letters addressed to the Applicant in respect of these breaches and the Evaluation Report of the Applicant’s performance highlighting this breach at pages 20 & 21 thereof are hereto attached,” the UCC has said in response to the suit.

But MTN in their suit, insist that they are not happy with the procedures used by UCC when determining a recent disputed in which the regulator ordered them to pay Vas Garages Shs 529 million, after the firm that was providing valued added services to MTN complained to the regulator that they had been cheated.

But now MTN is taking on UCC, saying that the Vas Garage complaint was defective and irregular and resulted in a miscarriage of justice against MTN Uganda.

Through the company lawyers, Sebalu & Lule advocates, wants High Court to quash UCC illegal directives and grant self regulation powers.

The relationship between regulator and MTN Uganda deteriorated in the recent past after a number of entities filed complaints against MTN citing continued breach of contracts among others.

But the UCC, in response to latest MTN Uganda legal action has accused the telecom giant and non-compliance and continued breach of the law when working with customers and other clients. MTN another legal challenge by local firm SMS Empire who filed a petition against the telecom giant over an alleged breach of contract, and illegally usurping their database.

The SMS Empire dragged MTN to the High Court seeking compensation of Shs24.5 billion for illegally taking over and expiring their databases of mobile phone numbers that they spent 8 years compiling.

MTN Uganda has appointed Ms Enid Edroma to head their legal affairs as the telecoms giant braces for a fight with the regulator (FILE PHOTO)

Other complaints against MTN came after an association of VAS providers petitioned the President, parliament and UCC to investigate MTN Uganda on several allegations of violating contracts, anti-competition, under-declaring revenue, and withholding payments to companies.

Court documents seen by PML Daily indicate that upon grabbing the data base when the SMS Empire Ltd complained to UCC, UCC later discovered that the data base was being illegally used by MTN without license but did nothing to rectify the matter.

But MTN Uganda now claims that the company was denied an opportunity to make any submissions regarding the allegations of breach of contract and unfair competition when the matters were brought before UCC now wants self regulation.

MTN has in the recent past lost key legal battles with some against staff in the criminal courts and several other legal and regulatory issues, with their license renewal by the UCC also currently under challenge.

UCC recently announced that MTN would be applying for renewal of its license for other 10-years and invited the public object and unfurl MTN’s misgivings ahead of UCCs evaluation report released February 2018 ahead of public hearing on the same matter.

But in a letter dated march 4, 2016, addressed to MTN Uganda Chief Executive Officer by Eng. Godfrey Mutabazi, the UCC Executive Director noted the giant company has failed to address customer complaints.

UCC’s Executive Director Godfrey Mutabazi (FILE Photo)

Mr Mutabazi noted that whereas MTN had to a large extent complied with its license and regulatory obligations, there are a number of outstanding areas of non-compliance which musts be addressed before the commission progresses the application of for renewal MTNs license.

“In the last 2 years, MTN has consistently fallen short of the established threshold resolve of all the consumer complaints with in 24 hrs,” the UCC boss wrote.

With regulator and other legal challenges, MTN has now appointed Enid Edroma, a seasoned telecom legal mind to head their legal and regulatory department. Ms Edroma, who replaced Anthony Katamba is a member of the Uganda Law Society and was formerly, the legal affairs manager at Celtel Uganda and has until recently been the Board Secretary for National Identification Registration Authority (NIRA).

Now with an appointment of Ms Edroma, the company wants to offer itself a lease in terms of new leadership to her legal affairs.

The telecom giant’s application against the regulator will welcome Ms Edroma to her new role.

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