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