There are indications that the era of heavy sanctions may soon resurface in the Nigerian telecommunications industry over the unending menace of unsolicited test message from the mobile network operators, and this time around they may just pathway with a whopping sum of N16 billion.
This unhappy news is coming at time when the industry is bedevilled with FOREX crisis which has brought a good number of them to their kneels.
Specifically, the industry regulator, described as one of the best in Africa, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) dropped the hint at the World Consumer Right Day (WCRD) 2017 in Abuja.
The Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta said that telecom firms in the country may pay over N16 billion in fines annually to subscribers as compensation for sending unsolicited SMS or calls to them.
He said that any telecom firm 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.
He explained that before the 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.
Danbatta said, “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.”
He also said 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, adding, “The commission will assess the outcome of the campaign to know the necessary steps to take if the campaign is completed.”
Danbatta further said that subscribers spent $5.6 billion on telecom services in 2015, and that it was topped in 2016 by another $1 billion to make it $6.6 billion.
He said 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 explained that the creation of the 8-point agenda in the sector by the commission was to facilitate broadband penetration, improve quality service, protecting and empowering the consumers which are core drivers of the NCC Year of the Consumer Initiative.
The Minister of Communications, Mr. Adebayo Shittu who flagged-off the NCC 2017 Year of the Consumer said the ministry is formulating cogent policies, frameworks and guidelines on protecting ICT consumers, especially in telecommunications.
He disclosed that Nigeria has established itself as one of the fastest growing mobile cellular markets in the world.
According to the Minister, 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, saying that some consumers have two or more SIM cards/lines due to network coverage challenges.
“Billions of dollars have been invested in the Nigerian telecoms market since the inception of the GSM in 2001; operators have committed to invest even more in the near future. Because of this development and since Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, access to the internet has to improve significantly to realise the objective of a ‘Better Digital World”, he said.
Shittu said that research showed that by 2020, about 52 percent of the world population will be online adding that about 72 percent of the people don’t know what information companies collect about them online and what purposes.
While expressing confidence of overcoming the challenges in the industry, such as drop calls, rise in consumer base, delays in hooking up calls, network coverage among others, the Minister revealed government is working on policies and effective strategies to improve on those challenges.
“Government is also working to create digital awareness with the objective of increasing the capacity, confidence and trust Nigerians has in the digital world.”