Fake promos: How GSM operators defraud subscribers

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BY OLABISI OLALEYE

For several years, Nige­rian subscribers’ pri­vacy has been violated with unsolicited promotions by telecommunications op­erators. Oftentimes such promotions, do not leave an option to opt out willingly.

As if that is not enough, monies are deducted at vari­ous intervals to the detriment of subscribers in most cases.

The regulator, Nigerian Communications Commis­sions (NCC), apparently not pleased with the way and manners operators swindle subscribers had to step in to stop these promotions and lot­teries.

The telecoms operators, however, heaped blames on the Value Added Service (VAS) operators render for churning out the promos.

A mobile VAS is a non-core service involving all services transcending standard voice calls and fax transmissions.

The identifiable services include mobile entertainment, ring-back tunes, music down­load, news break, biblical and inspirational quotes, caller-tunes, flights information and tele-marketing.

According to the latest in­dustry statistics, mobile VAS is currently worth over $200 million annually with huge potential to accelerate to $500 million in the next five years.

Telecoms operators had explained in the heat of the moment that VAS operators are a sub-sector of the telcos, whereas VAS operators had also warned that voice would not be the driver for the future of telecoms but VAS.

However, a subscriber, Mr. Chimezie Nwosu, com­plained that several times even when he had not sub­scribed to a promo, his money was be deducted.

“There was a time I topped my MTN line with N5,000. Within two days, the money was deducted and funnily enough, you cannot opt out of the crazy promo.”

Another subscriber, Mrs. Bimbo Aparadija, also la­mented that MTN bonus recharge was fraudulent es­pecially as she tried its recent sort code, *885 and rather than getting the extra bonus, the real recharge and expected bonus vanished into thin air. Chinenye Apams also added that the most annoying thing was that these sort codes are impossible to opt out from.

Meanwhile, every promo and service, for instance, Air­tel insurance alliance are also woven around a sort code that does not have the option to opt out. On his part, an indus­try watcher, Nonye Obienu, disclosed shortly after a con­sultative forum that Etisalat Nigeria appears to be the only stable telco with stable and transparent sort codes.

Recently at a forum, NCC expressed concerns that most of the operators are negligent of the basic operational guide­lines which call for stricter regulatory framework.

Commenting on the dee­lopment, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Dr. Eu­gene Juwah, stressed the need for proper regulations of the operations, saying, “the com­mission has witnessed some practices and behaviours in the VAS segment, which, as individual subscribers and as industry regulators, have giv­en us a lot of concern.”

The NCC boss also hinted that the commission has re­ceived an avalanche of com­plaints from subscribers re­garding forceful activation of various value added services by operators without explicit consent. “Worse still, these services are auto-renewal re­sulting to perpetual lock-in of subscribers by the VAS pro­viders.

“We have witnessed high level of tele-marketing, espe­cially unsolicited messages by mobile network operators/ value added service operators soliciting for subscription for their services, which most times constitute nuisance to consumers.”

However, Mr. Bunmi Mar­tins, Research Intelligence Publication, noted that NCC has not been doing enough in monitoring the way some of these VAS operators are man­aged.

“Take for instance, the is­sue of sort codes left in the hands of operators, to a point that they hoard these codes and allocate them to their preferred friends or associ­ates. I think the NCC should be more reactive, bolder and stronger in terms of enforcing rules.

“Right now, consumers are being swindled of their hard earned money because of the laxity of the NCC in monitoring the activities of these service providers. How to tackle the improper use of VAS should be the next line of action of the commission.”

Responding, NCC’s Head, Legal and Regulatory Ser­vice, Mrs. Yetunde Akinloye, explained that NCC is look­ing at revamping sort codes, while stating that the commis­sion also found illegal Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in operation.

“Now, for MNOs to get a licence, there must be a Mem­orandum of Understanding (MoU) that will address ser­vice, including prepaid call­ing service, recharging codes, customer care and special numbering services.

Source : SunOnline

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