Historically, the TRA has operated in accordance with a number of essential principles; the most important of which is ensuring that the communications environment in the Kingdom of Bahrain will meet consumer expectations. This reaffirms why the TRA always listens keenly and responds promptly to all that affects consumers. Relatedly, the Authority ensures that it diligently takes the required action, internally and externally.
The TRA understands the importance of having a secure and reliable telecommunications infrastructure at all times, given how modern society has grown so reliant on telecommunications. In this respect, the TRA’s team has worked intently on devising a methodology to identify critical components in the telecommunications infrastructure. Such a methodology will ensure that risks to ICT are identified and reduced to an acceptable level, in addition to serving the Third National Telecommunications Plan (NTP).
In accordance with the Telecommunications Law, the Authority is empowered to ensure mobile operators’ compliance with the terms and conditions agreed upon with the TRA. That said, in September 2015, the TRA received a substantial number of complaints over the degradation of VOIP applications by the three public licensed mobile operators. The TRA uncovered that mobile operators had effectively changed the terms and conditions of their service without the written approval of the Authority. Hence, the TRA issued an Emergency Order to the three mobile operators to guarantee they obtain the Authority’s approval before embarking on any such change in the future. The Authority also revoked a considerable number of telecommunication licenses that were previously obtained by a number of organisations in 2015.
Consumer complaints are the benchmark by which the Authority gauges user satisfaction. Therefore, the TRA takes consumer complaints very seriously. During 2015, the TRA investigated 12 complaints regarding mobile international roaming bills that had alarmed consumers with a total value of around 30,000 Bahraini Dinars. Subsequently, the TRA circulated, via its website, a public consultation document titled “Regulation on Roaming on Public Mobile Communications Networks”. The consultation’s purpose was to regulate international roaming and provide enhanced consumer protection safeguards. Relatedly, the TRA followed up by applying the new lower GCC roaming prices for voice, SMS and mobile data, that directly benefited users in Bahrain. The new roaming prices became effective in April 2016.
Article 56 of the Telecommunications Law of the Kingdom of Bahrain states that either party may refer any dispute between a Subscriber and a Licensed Operator to the Authority. Consequently, the TRA published a public consultation on the Code of Practice for the Handling of Consumer Complaints by Telecommunications Operators. This consultation proved to be useful in educating consumers on the process of submitting complaints, providing them with sufficient and transparent information regarding the procedures required.
The TRA also believes that its sensitive position as a regulator of a highly dynamic market requires perpetual innovation and revision to its existing systems and framework. In 2015, the TRA issued a new Regulation for SIM-card enabled telecommunications services registration. The Regulation aims to safeguard consumers from fraud and identity theft related crimes, as it requires the licensees to follow a more thorough registration and verification process for both prepaid and post-paid subscribers.
In the same context, the new SIM-card Regulation public consultation triggered complaints of some Indian residents in Bahrain in relation to identity theft. As a result of these complaints, the TRA visited the Indian Embassy in order to resolve the matter. The TRA intends to continue visiting other embassies in order to get a better understanding of the amount of identity theft cases.
The TRA has a high level of appreciation of its ethical responsibility toward the Kingdom. As focused as it remains on protecting consumers’ rights and resolving telecommunications issues, the Authority has one eye on the risks generated by inappropriate telecommunications use. In 2010, the TRA undertook the first Online Safety Study in the Kingdom of Bahrain. The study highlighted key issues around children’s and adults’ perceptions of risk and their online behaviour. In 2015, the TRA contracted the Researchers to undertake a second review of Internet safety awareness among adults and children. The Cyber Security Directorate also oversaw initiatives to review and raise awareness of online safety. During the year, the Directorate planned numerous activities to promote Safe Surf awareness advertisements in Bahrain. Consequently, the TRA developed a 3D animated video in Bahrain, to help educate youths and their guardians on the dangers of sharing personal information with strangers on the Internet.
Protecting consumers is the primary role of the TRA. For that reason, the TRA staff spare no effort in empowering, engaging and protecting consumers. The TRA is enthusiastic about the forthcoming years, believing that the solidity of its infrastructure and the sincerity of its endeavours shall pave the way toward success.