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Airtel refutes K2.1 billion fine

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Airtel Malawi Managing Director Charles Kamoto has denied charges levelled against the firm by Competition and Fair Trading Commission (CFTC), saying the company is already pursuing the matter in court.

CFTC has slapped Airtel Malawi with a fine of K2.1 billion for failing to pay bonuses to deserving customers in Khethekhethe promotion.

Airtel Malawi launched Khethekhethe loyalty programme in 2014 that sees subscribers getting free airtime for any airtime usage.

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The bonus is given out once a month for airtime usage of the previous calendar month and customers are not required to register to reap the rewards

The commission has also slapped other companies for committing various offences in violation of provisions of the Competition and Fair Trading Act.

The commission said this yesterday at a news conference in Lilongwe.

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But Airtel, in a statement released yesterday, denies the charges.

“Airtel complies and continues to fully comply with the relevant and applicable laws and has not committed any unfair practice or provided any misleading, false or deceptive information or made false representation to the public,” reads part of the press statement signed by Kamoto.

CFTC acting Chief Executive Officer Apoche Itimu said the commission received complaints, alleging that Airtel Malawi failed to pay KhetheKhethe bonuses to deserving customers.

Itimu said the complaint alleged that the company had stopped automatically crediting customer accounts with the bonuses but required the users to make a request for the same on the 14th day of every month.

The commission further indicated that some customers were unable to do so for various reasons between 2018 and 2021.

“It was further alleged that the unredeemed bonuses were appropriated and sold to other customers after the 15th. The complainants contended that the decision to require customers to apply for earned bonuses was unfair, abusive and without conscience,” Itimu said.

On October 5 2020, Airtel Malawi appeared before the commission where it explained that it believed lack of network was the cause of its customers’ failure to redeem the bonuses.

Consumers Association of Malawi Executive Director John Kapito said, if that were true, then Airtel was cheating consumers with such “inexcusable promises”, adding the money should be given back to the consumers.

“I stopped getting my bonuses long ago thinking they were discontinued. The excuse that consumers were not redeeming is total fabrication. Why would they not remind the consumer or find other ways of ensuring that the money is in the consumer’s wallet?

“All the money (K2.1 billion) must be paid back to the rightful consumers and that all future promotions and advertisements from Airtel must be vetted,” Kapito said.

The other companies that have been fined K500,000 each for various offences are MyBucks Banking Corporation, Shoprite Trading Limited, Kapani Quality Meat Products, Cfaz Foods, Munyane Investments.

First Capital Bank has been ordered to refund its client K511,000 while Grace Shopping Centre has been ordered to refund its customer K190,000 and pay K1 million for two other offences.

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