Friday, 28 June 2013

Startimes in con racket

Even before the dust settles on recent wrangles with Communication Commission of Kenya surrounding Star Times charging its subscribers for free-to-air channels in Kenya, the Pay TV company now finds itself embroiled in a dispute with Ugandan consumers for selling them outdated decoders.
Star Times’ Chinese national Kevin Chen, who’s Company, has been in the business of conning Ugandans by selling them obsolete decoders that are to be switched off before the end of this month to pave for the internationally acceptable Digital TV Broadcasting, is scheduled to face Ugandan courts.
Two Ugandan citizens Mulwani Taminwa and Muzamiru Kasamba were on 18th June cleared by the Commercial section of the High Court to file a case on behalf of more than 130,000 complainants whom, the Chinese duped into paying for the outlandish appliances.
They will be joined by the Uganda Consumers Protection Awareness Association (UCPAA) to push for a refund from the Chinese. The victims will also seek a swap for the compliant decoders from the accused.
Ugandan lawyer Richard Omongole filed the public interest lawsuit, with a preliminary application by Mulwani, Kasamba and UCPAA, to bring a representative suit on behalf of the victims of the con racket.
The Court’s deputy registrar Thaddeus Opesen allowed the application, which is to be served to Star Times management through an advertisement in the media.
The decoders in question go by the name DVB-T Set Top Box, which the plaintiff claim are products of outdated technology as declared by the 2006 International Telecommunications Union Conference that sat in Geneva.
Ever since the Uganda Communication Commission announced the analogue-to-digital TV migration deadline, the plaintiffs allege, the Chinese lowered the prices of their obsolete gadgets, luring scores of Ugandans who are prefer cheap commodities.
UCC has since drafted a policy and attendant public notice announcing Uganda was to adopt Digital Television Broadcasting Technology thereby abolishing the use of the outdated Star Times decoders.
UCC instructed the parties involved to stop the sale of DVB-T Technology,
but Star Times, continued to do so,” asserts Mulwani in affidavit he swore before Commissioner of Oaths Deo Bitaguma. Mulwani attached a list of the recent purchases by Ugandans, of the outdated and banned gadgets.
Even when the consumers body (UCCPAA) issued a September 18th 2012 statement demanding that Star Times stopped breaching the UCC ban, Star Times management did not adhere to the directive.
Though the consumers’ body copied the letter to Parliament, ICT and Trade Ministry and the Chinese Embassy, they ignored the breach, giving Star Times a free hand to exploit Ugandan consumers.
The Government failed to intervene as required by the Geneva Conference resolution to phase out obsolete TV gadgets. This is because it could not afford to annoy the loaded Chinese investors as well as their government which is bankrolling many projects such as the President’s Office, among
others. In a twist of events, the Uganda Responsible Investment (URI) body instead named the company as the Best Digital TV Providers of the year.

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