Cameroon: Indispensable Regulation!

By Godlove Bainkong

Cameroonians are no doubt enjoying the innovations brought into money transfer operation especially by mobile telephony companies. Although the operators are still benefitting from the unenviable 'administrative tolerance' to ride on with the business, some noticeable practices spearheaded by operators cast doubts as to how far or how well a consumer is king.

Knowing that in a couple of minutes one can send and receive money through his/her mobile phone is undoubtedly heart-soothing especially given the difficulties of the yesteryears. However, not mastering how much you need to spend to transfer what amount to which destination or how stable the rates could be and for how long can sometimes be troubling.

Arguably, users of the innovation have been at a loss lately with the hike in the rates of mobile money transfer by the different operators. Unilaterally, the operators have imposed new rates on customers which a school of thought holds is exorbitant. For example, it is reported that from one Orange subscriber to the other, the hitherto gratuitous sending operation has for some time now been costing between FCFA 50 to 400 depending on the amount transferred. What users had been paying as withdrawal charges have almost doubled. Meanwhile, for MTN which reportedly began the transfer rates adjustment process, transfer between its accounts that were previously free have for some time now been costing between FCFA 50 and 500, still depending on the amount transferred.

Market forces of demand and supply coupled with the legal lacuna existing as per the operation certainly pushed operators to embark on the adjustments. Someone somewhere may be saying that it was a golden opportunity that any business would take. Granted, where then is the responsibility of the businessmen over their customers? Inasmuch as it is beneficial to operators given the move's added value in maximising returns, despising customers in the operation does not only defeat the much talked about 'customer is king' in any business but as well casts dark clouds as to how well money fetchers could be responsible vis-à-vis the people on whom the cash is harvested. The move once again brings to light the helplessness of consumers in the face of unbridled quest for gain by most, if not all, business owners.

This equally highlights the necessity not to delay the regulation of the sector. As a matter of fact, setting records straight on who does what in money transfer is more than ever indispensable. Failure to do so or delaying the regulation of the sector with the entry of mobile telephone operators would be synonymous to sacrificing the population, whose purchasing power is already low, on the alter of gain by privilege businesses. For, the rates adjustment may just be a move to test the waters. Customers need to be protected. Good legislation on regulating the activities and better implementation tools are thus imperative.