Even though self-regulation in Kenya seems to have worked well, there still are several loopholes in the mobile payment and transactions sector that has left consumers vulnerable to unfair practices, cheating and losses.
Mobile payments are used by millions of consumers, not only in Kenya, but also across the world.
There needs to be an internationally recognised benchmark for guiding the industry and it must include consumer protection.
Without clear and trusted consumer protection features such as redress mechanisms and liability checks for consumers, there is a danger that consumers will pay dearly for poor services.
But before Boston….
It was CIN’s experience of mobile payments in Kenya that got me involved in the development of the ISO standard on mobile payments around April 2013.
During this time, CI shared with its members, including CIN, a review of the drafting progress which had been ongoing for some time.
The drafts were out for consultation among the Working Group (WG) members. So in this way CIN, as well as other CI members, got to comment on the drafts through CI.
With guidance and coordination from CI’s Sadie Homer and Robin Simpson, we submitted a lot of comments and the CI team did a marvellous job compiling them.
The next step was a physical meeting scheduled in Boston. But there was the big issue of getting funding to attend and the whole process of fundraising that followed was just incredible.
First, there was no time to raise funds, not to mention the other travel preparations that I would need to complete.
Through my membership in the Financial Services Technical Committees (TC) at the Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) I applied for ISO sponsorship to attend the meeting.
And I am very grateful to KEBS; particularly to the Acting Managing Director Mr. Charles Gachahi, David Kirui and David Nganyi for the support and guidance in making and sending the application.
The response from ISO was great. I got the sponsorship for my travel! I however still needed money to cover the costs of my visa, accommodation and sustenance in Boston, money that was needed urgently given the short time left (this was now in September already).
CI saves the day…..and me!
When I told CI about the ISO part sponsorship, I also requested if CI could fund the remaining costs.
Well, at the beginning it looked like there were no funds at CI for such costs but it was encouraging knowing that Sadie and the entire team were working hard to get the funds from other partners.
This gave me hope. So when I received a mail from Justin Macmullan that I met the requirements for the Rhoda Karpatkin Fund that CI operates on behalf of their US member Consumer Reports and they would be able to cover the remaining cost, I was super excited!
The visa application process was - well this is a story for another day! But thankfully, I got the visa in time to travel, just two days before departing for Boston - not bad.
I arrived at the meeting venue with Robin, who picked me up at the hotel armed with his map of Boston.
But I felt sort of afraid as to whether I was really up to the task - especially when I realised that I was the youngest in the group.
But this deceptive feeling of inadequacy did not last long as we got down to business. The discussions throughout the three days went very well.
We had a successful meeting, with most of our proposals accepted and incorporated in the drafts.
This could be because we were clear on our position and expectations, having already identified the areas in the different papers that we wanted addressed.
For instance, we believed liability was an important aspect that was lacking in the entire ISO 12812 series.
Another important area we were looking at was the redress mechanism for consumer complaints arising from using mobile payments, expected to be evident particularly in the consumer to business transactions.
We were happy when this was also accepted to be included in Paper 5: person-to- business payments. I liked the fact that reaching consensus on the issues being discussed was not difficult.
The next steps include redrafting some parts of the standard. So the work continues.
On the fun side, Boston was great. I had some nice walks around the waterfront, visiting the historic sites such as the Faneuil Hall, Boston Common Park and of course I tried and really liked the seafood there!