By ADEDEJI ADEYEMI FAKOREDE
NETWORK operators in the country have up till June 30, 2016 to stop sending unsolicited Short Message Service (SMS) or calls to subscribers or face sanctions from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
Document from the Legal and Regulatory Department of the NCC and directed to network operators showed that the telecom firms risk N5 million fine if they failed to comply with the directive as at June 30, and further N500, 000 per day for as long as the contravention persists.
The letter was specifically directed to 13 Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) including MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat. Other notable service providers on the list are new owners of NITEL (NATCOM) now trading as ntel; Smile Communications; Visafone Communications; Megatech Engineering Limited; Gicell Wireles Limited; Danjay Telecoms and Gamjitel.
Moribund operators, including Starcomms and Multilinks, were also handed the directive.
According to the NCC, the directive which has been communicated to affected operators, is pursuant to Section 53 of the Nigerian Communications Act, 2003.
The commission said it had been inundated with complaints from subscribers about the menace of unsolicited text messages and calls from MNOs, which had impacted negatively on consumer quality experience in the telecommunications industry.
At a forum last November, the National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers of Nigeria (NATCOMS) had lamented that telephone users in the country were losing about N30 billion to unsolicited SMS monthly from the activities of Value Added Service Providers (VAS), which run on the platforms of the MNOs.
According to the President of NATCOMs, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, “A times, they will tell you they have automatically renewed what you never subscribed for and deduct money. Such messages claim between N50 to N200 to N500 monthly from subscribers. Our investigations showed that on the average, subscribers lose N200 monthly and when you multiply that by the about 150 million mobile telephone users in Nigeria, you will arrive at N30 billion. By the end of the year, we may be getting around N360 billion shared by telecommunications operators and their VAS collaborators reaped illegally from subscribers.
“The industry must look at this very fast and act on it,” Ogunbanjo stated.
Meanwhile, NCC has barred mobile number operators from sending out unsolicited text messages to subscribers, according to information obtained from the Legal and Regulatory Services Department regulatory authority.
They were asked to set up the shortcode of 2442 for subscribers to opt-in to the “Do Not Disturb” (DND) database restricting unsolicited marketing messages.
According to the commission, it shall be mandatory for mobile operators to create sufficient awareness to its subscribers on the existence of the DND on their networks; that they shall also comply with the quarterly and reporting template prescribed by the NCC to ensure feedback and compliance.
NCC warned operators that generated SMS shall comply with the 8am to 8pm stipulation (12 hour period) for sending SMS to subscribers and that the opt-in process shall be free.
It said operated generated SMS is excluded from the DND list in as much as such messages are in conformity with NCC’s directive on timing and regularity and do not constitute a nuisance to subscribers and the subscribers shall have right to partial or full DND implementation.
NCC said the ‘New Direction’ issued pursuant to Section 53 of the Nigerian Communications Act follows the inundation of complaints by subscribers to its office about menace of unsolicited text messages and voice calls from mobile operators which have impacted negatively on consumer quality service in the telecom industry.
NCC said it was aware through its monitoring activities that some operators have set up DND facility on their network but the awareness by subscribers of the facility is very minimal and unsatisfactory. The menace of unsolicited texts and calls led NCC a fortnight ago to regulate the Value Added Services (VAS) market with the issuance of draft regulation.