Electricity cost tops consumers’ list of worries

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Business Daily Africa, September 03, 2012

In Summary

  • Some 70 per cent of those interviewed singled out electricity as too expensive, with 50 per cent complaining about exorbitantly priced healthcare. Medicare costs have risen sharply owing to inflation and raising of salaries to match public sector increases.
  • Majority of urban dwellers are also worried about high costs of transport, dilapidated health-care facilities and frequent power blackouts.
  • The survey titled “the State of the Kenyan Consumer” carried out by Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), a non-governmental organisation, also shows that consumers did not know where to take their complaints.
  • It was carried out to measure the extent of consumer dissatisfaction ahead of the planned discussion of the Consumer Protection Bill in Parliament in the next two weeks.
  • Out of every 50 people interviewed in each of the four towns Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa and Nyeri nearly half of them indicated public transport (47 per cent) and water supply (44 per cent) to be of bad quality.
  • Cost is the least concern as far as telecommunication is concerned. Quality of services was found to be the best in the telecommunication sector.
  • In Kenya, consumer protection authorities include Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK), Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) among others.
  • The study team gathered the views of over 150 consumers from the four selected towns in the months of February and March 2012

The high cost of electricity and healthcare are a major cause of concern for consumers in urban areas, a new survey shows.

Some 70 per cent of those interviewed singled out electricity as too expensive, with 50 per cent complaining about exorbitantly priced healthcare. Medicare costs have risen sharply owing to inflation and raising of salaries to match public sector increases.

Majority of urban dwellers are also worried about high costs of transport, dilapidated health-care facilities and frequent power blackouts.

The survey titled “the State of the Kenyan Consumer” carried out by Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS), a non-governmental organisation, also shows that consumers did not know where to take their complaints.

It was carried out to measure the extent of consumer dissatisfaction ahead of the planned discussion of the Consumer Protection Bill in Parliament in the next two weeks.

Apart from high prices, suppliers in some instances also create artificial shortages, a good example being oil marketers when prices are reviewed downwards.

“One of the challenges we have is that consumer protection bodies are many with overlapping responsibilities. There is need to harmonise them into one unit,” said Daniel Asher, project manager of CUTS.

Out of every 50 people interviewed in each of the four towns Nairobi, Kisumu, Mombasa and Nyeri nearly half of them indicated public transport (47 per cent) and water supply (44 per cent) to be of bad quality.

Cost is the least concern as far as telecommunication is concerned. Quality of services was found to be the best in the telecommunication sector.

The level of consumer awareness about redress mechanisms in the five sectors was also examined with most of the respondents saying they did not know where to report problems.

Consumers Federation of Kenya chairman Stephen Mutoro said that the Consumer Protection Bill will help to provide avenues for consumers to seek redress. “Some of the issues however can only be solved by removal of monopolies and increased competition,” said Mr Mutoro.

In Kenya, consumer protection authorities include Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK), Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) and the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) among others.

CCK, however, says that consumer organisations rarely respond to calls for comments on important issues touching on them, for example, formulation of ICT policies, relevant regulations and guidelines.

It also claims that consumer organisations hardly ever respond or attend fora designed to give them the opportunity to influence policy and legal frameworks.

Some 20 key institutions and 34 civil society consumer organisations were identified by a mix of purposive and random sampling techniques for the field survey.

Nearly half (47 per cent) of the respondents said that the agencies concerned were inefficient in handling complaints, while nearly a third of them (27 percent) complained about bureaucratic procedures.

About 17 per cent respondents said that the agencies were slow to respond to their complaints. Another 27 per cent of the respondents complained about rude staff. Only a fifth (20 per cent) found the system to be efficient.

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