The much anticipated World Consumer Right Day kicked off in Abuja in grand style and the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) made Nigerian consumers the focal point and a priority.
It is on record that telecom operators in Nigeria are known to be bugging their suscribers with frequent unsolicited messages, a practice which is believed to have been curbed.
This is a fight that may have been won by the telecom regulator, NCC, but would be a complete victory if the consumers are ready.
Obviously, the issue of sending unsolicited messages or calling subscribers would have been out of control, if not for special regulatory measures adopted by the NCC.
Despite challenges such as drop calls, rise in consumer base, delays in hooking up calls, network coverage etc, which has negatively affected the subscribers, the NCC in collaboration with the government have consistently work to effect strategies to improve on those challenges.
The Commission, although been mandated to strike a balance between telecom operators and subscribers, thus, have always fight for the Nigerian consumers.
“The Commission’s readiness to protect subscribers from the nuisance and irritations of unsolicited text messages and calls from mobile network operators cannot be questioned, ” Tony Ojobo, Director of Publicity, NCC said in September 2016.
One of such protective measures adopted by the Commission was the introduction of the DND plan.
When the issue became so alarming, the NCC had to bring onboard the rules of “Do Not Disturb” (DND).
The NCC instructed all telecom operators in the country to activate the 2442 Do Not Disturb Short Code, as at July 1, 2016.
Meanwhile, at the Consumer Right Day (WCRD) 2017 that was held this week in Abuja, NCC boss, Prof Umar Danbatta, also made it clear that the Commission will ensure that the consumers are protected.
Danbatta pointed out that any telecom operator that breaches the rules of ‘Do Not Disturb’ (DND) operations by way of sending unsolicited messages or calls to subscribers stands the risk of being fined to the tune of N5 million per incidence and such compensation goes to the affected subscriber.
Explaining: he said before a breach could be established to enable the commission sanction any telecom operator, a subscriber must have sent a message, ‘STOP’, to a short code ‘2442’ to opt out of the service.
“If the messages keep coming into your phone, send a message of complaint to NCC to a short code ‘622’ or call the short code. If that continues, necessary sanction will be undertaken,” Danbatta said.
However, it was also disclosed that telecom firms in the Nigeria may pay over N16 billion in fines annually to subscribers as compensation for sending unsolicited SMS or calls to them.
Furthermore, the regulator organises forum, symposium, seminar and conferences so as to enlighten the Nigerian consumers in Nigeria.
That been said, specifically, NCC boss reteirated that there is the need to enlighten Nigerians of their rights on the use of the ‘622’ short code across the 774 local government areas of the country.
“The regulator will assess the outcome of the campaign to know the necessary steps to take if the campaign is completed.”
As part of the measures to protect the consumers, Adebayo Shittu, minister of Communications Technology, said the ministry is formulating cogent policies, frameworks and guidelines on protecting ICT consumers, especially in telecommunications.
“2017 is dedicated to the Nigerian Telecom Consumer, which is aimed at protecting consumers and ensuring that consumers are not taken for granted for patronage, “, he said.
Adding that Nigeria has established itself as one of the fastest growing mobile cellular markets in the world.
“The normal anticipated consumer data base should be hosting about 450 million records of users, if each customer joins at least two network vendors with each having at least a single SIM card.
However, some consumers have two or more SIM cards/lines due to network coverage challenges,” he said.