Unsolicited messages and forced subscriptions have over time been the hallmark of the Nigerian telecomm service. Telecom operators or their surrogates (3rd party content developers) flood subscribers phones with tons of text messages every day, advertising one service or the other.
Some even forcibly subscribe consumers to different services and deduct various sums of money without the consent of affected consumers. Examples of unsolicited messages can be seen in the following screenshots:
Consequent upon the foregoing, the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has over time been inundated with a barrage of complaints on unsolicited messages, unsolicited advert calls and deductions for forced subscriptions and other unsolicited services.
ROLE OF CONSUMER PROTECTION COUNCIL (CPC)
Among others, CPC has the mandate to provide redress to obnoxious practices or the unscrupulous exploitation of consumers, encourage trade, industry and professional associations to develop and enforce in their various fields quality standards designed to safeguard the interest of consumers,. ensure that consumers' interests receive due consideration at appropriate forum, and prosecute anyone who provides any service or proffers any information or advertisement thereby causing injury or loss to the consumer.
Cognizant of its mandate, CPC continues to resolve individual complaints on their merit, as well as undertake advocacy to the Nigerian Telecommunications Commission (NCC)for an enduring industry-wide solution to the abuse of consumer rights in the telecom sector.
INTRODUCTION OF THE DND SERVICE
CPC was pleased to learn of the directive of the NCC to telecom operators in Nigeria to introduce the Do Not Disturb (DND) code across their networks with effect from 30th June 2016.The directive required all mobile network operators to dedicate a short code for use by subscribers to opt-in or out of the ‘Do Not Disturb (DND)’ database on their networks.
However, months after the said directive was given to telecom operators by NCC, complaints about promotional and marketing messages from 3rd Party services (Bulk SMS, VAS promos, etc) still persist.
FACTORS HAMPERING SUCCESSFUL IMPLEMENTATION OF DND SERVICE
Factors inhibiting the implementation of the DND service include the following:
Lack of Awareness:
While most Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) have complied with NCC’s directive in setting up the DND facility on their networks, there exists the unwillingness or reluctance of the MNO’s to sensitise their subscribers on the availability of the facility and how to utilise same.
In some instances, the Do-Not-Disturb service suffered technical hitches as they failed to work as expected. In this respect, there are insinuations among consumers that the so-called technical hitches may be the MNOs ploy to deliberately frustrate consumers from making use of the DND service.
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE:
Efforts should be galvanised by NCC and the MNOs to bring to the knowledge of consumers the availability of the DND service and how to use same.
CPC supports the imposition of punitive fines by NCC on MNOs that violate the Commission's directive on the DND service. The Council's position, however, is that the enforcement of the DND service should be stepped up by NCC to ensure that the MNOs comply fully with the directive in the interest of consumers.
Promotional and marketing messages from 3rd party services, which include bulk SMS, VAS promos, etc, have become a nightmare for consumers. The situation behooves all MNOs to comply fully with the directives of the NCC on the DND service.
CPC, on its part, is committed to its advocacy on this issue and will continue to stand by NCC on measures being introduced to eliminate the scourge.