On Thursday 16th August, 2012, Simba Telecom held a Samsung Galaxy Pocket phone promotion dubbed “Buy one Get one Free”. Simba Telecom advertised that a Samsung Galaxy Pocket phone was to be sold at UGX 350,000 (approximately USD 138) and for each phone one bought; one would get another Samsung Galaxy Pocket phone for free. The promotion was advertised on radio stations late in the evening the previous day but somehow news of the promotion spread like a wild fire. According to the radio advertisement, the promotion was due to run from 10.00 am to 12.00 pm at three selected Simba Telecom shops located at Garden City, Kampala Road and Shoprite branch.
Lo and behold the promotion actually started at 10.30 am and at 11.30 am, it was announced that the “Buy one Get one Free” promotion was over. The numerous shoppers scampering and still fighting to get in were informed that upon purchase of a Samsung Galaxy Pocket phone, instead of getting a free extra phone, they would now be given a free t-shirt. It was clear the phones were still in abundant supply, however now that they had drawn shoppers in droves, they had decided to take advantage of the poor people who had travelled from far and wide to sell more and distribute less phones. Despite the angry protests about the unfairness and deceit peddled by Simba Telecom, the staff did not budge and some shoppers resorted to buying the phones at a cheaper price from cheeky people who had already enjoyed the promotion and amassed enough phones.
This incident portrays the treatment consumers in Uganda endure on a daily basis from almost all sectors. They get shabby treatment from the government, private sector and even some multi- national entities. There are no clear consumer protection laws in Uganda and to further aggravate the problem, consumer protection bodies are almost non- existent with no presence at all. This leaves consumers at the mercy of unscrupulous traders, their products and promotions.
Ugandan consumers deserve protection from the law and need in place national organisations like United Kingdom’s Ofcom which is the communications regulator. Ofcom is charged with the duty of protecting people from scams and sharp practices, harmful and offensive broadcast and publications. The UK Office of Fair Trading also provides an avenue for aggrieved consumers to report complaints about unscrupulous traders and actions detrimental to the interests of consumers.
In CRAA’s opinion, these consumer watch dog organisations would check the behaviour of traders and make Ugandan consumers as powerful as the companies they deal with. Perhaps if we had them, Simba Telecom would not have deceived, mislead and exploited people with their dubious promotion. Simba Telecom, Ugandan consumers certainly deserved better than to be deceived, next time just follow what you advertised on radio. It is not fair to change the rules of the game while the game is on.