We have on more than one occasion pointed out that the consumer in Tanzania is not that well served by the various suppliers of goods and services. We described the situation as that of the consumer being shortchanged.
Part of the problem it would appear lies in lack of adequate information which would help consumers to make the right choices and thus enjoy value for money from their purchases.
Indeed in some cases consumers make what we call blind choices; meaning that they buy a particular good or service based on hearsay rather than clear information gathered from a credible source.
Consumers in the country are right now in the midst of a historical transition. It is that of moving from analogue to digital broadcasting.
Talk about the migration, switch-off or switch over to digital broadcasting has left many a television viewer with more questions than answers.
Sample interviews conducted as late as this month elicited replies which clearly reflected the need for more public education.
For some the move is an added cost, as it introduces the need to buy a decoder in order to view TV channels that are now accessed free of charge. According to the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority (TCRA), of the estimated 6.4 million television sets in the country, 2.6 million will have to be upgraded to the new technology through purchase of decoders.
For many of these consumers the main complaint is why the rush to fleece them of their little remaining income now?
They are further concerned that they have such limited information about set top boxes or decoder suppliers that they will be forced into making almost blind choices in this critical aspect to their continued enjoyment of television viewing.
Yet the TCRA rightly states: “The consumer has a right to full pre-contractual information that is clear (understandable), helpful, adequate and accurate on the services and choices offered by a service provider/operator to facilitate the making of an informed choice,” in this case of decoders and the other digital accessories.
For others, specifically suppliers, it is the anticipated debilitating loss from the analogue equipment they have in stock now and which according to them will be rendered useless come December 31.
For yet many others it is about the quality they have known and relish. They tout analogue transmission as superior to digital broadcasts which they claim freeze or break often, irritating viewers while the analogue systems are smooth.
Although the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) set June 2015 as the deadline for the switchover, EAC member states agreed a deadline three years earlier to enable them deal with the challenges they were likely to face from the new technology.
Besides the above justification, TCRA worries that an extension of the deadline could turn our country into a dump for TV sets that are not compatible with digital broadcasting.
We still believe that TCRA needs to use the remaining time to roll out a bigger and more focused public education campaign to clear any fundamental misunderstanding of the implications of the transition to digital broadcasting, if it remains adamant about the December 31 switchover.
For when all is said and done it is about ensuring the consumer is protected.