By Florence Onuegbu
The Consumer Protection Council (CPC) on Thursday supported the imposition of sanctions on Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) over unsolicited telemarketing.
The CPC Director-General, Mrs Dupe Atoki, spoke at the 4th Quarter Meeting/Open Forum of the Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF) in Lagos.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that theme of the forum is: “Do-Not-Disturb (DND): Panacea to Unsolicited Messages’’.
Atoki, represented by Mr Joshua Ngada, the Head, Lagos Office of CPC, said that unsolicited messages and forced subscriptions had over time been the hallmark of the Nigerian telecommunications service.
She said that those telecommunications operators or their surrogates (3rd party content developers) flooded subscribers’ phones with tons of text messages every day, advertising one service or the other.
According to her, some even forcibly subscribed consumers to different services and deducted various sums of money without the consent of the affected consumers.
“CPC was pleased to learn of the directive of the NCC to telecommunications operators in Nigeria to introduce the Do-Not-Disturb (DND) code across their networks with effect from June 30, 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 telecommunications operators by NCC, complaints about promotional and marketing messages from the 3rd party services (Bulk SMS, VAS promos) still persist.
“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 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,’’ she said.
Atoki said that 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.
She added that promotional and marketing messages from 3rd party services, which include bulk SMS, VAS promos, among others, had become a nightmare for consumers.
According to her, 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.
“Cognisant of its mandate, CPC will continue to resolve individual complaints on their merit, and as well undertake advocacy to NCC for an enduring industry-wide solution to the abuse of consumer rights in the telecommunication sector,” Atoki said.
She said that one of the factors inhibiting the implementation of the DND service was lack of awareness.
Atoki said that most operators had complied with NCC’s directive in setting up the DND facility on their networks.
“But, there exists the unwillingness or reluctance of the operators 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,” she said.