As the countdown to the June 30 deadline issued by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to telecommunications operators in the country to stop the barrage of unsolicited text messages (SMS) and calls to subscribers’ lines draw nearer, the National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) has called on the NCC to ensure total compliance by the operators so that subscribers would have reprieve from the menace.
According to the association in an interview by its president, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, the call became imperative in view of the shoddy handling of past directives to the operators, saying the subscribers are not usually the beneficiaries of past sanctions by the NCC against erring network operators.
The NCC had last month warned telecoms operators to desist from sending subscribers unsolicited text messages and calls or risk severe sanctions, saying they have till June 30, 2016, as the deadline for compliance.
Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, the executive vice chairman of the NCC, gave the warning at the 77th Edition of the
Telecoms Consumer Parliament in Abuja, saying that based on the general complaints of subscribers over unsolicited text messages and calls, the commission issued a directive to telecoms operators to dedicate a short code 2442, on their networks for use by subscribers to opt-in to a “Do- NOT-DISTURB” database to register their numbers against unsolicited text messages.
A report quoted a source which said the NCC has prescribed a fine of N5 million fine and a further N500, 000 per day also for erring operators for as long as the contravention persists.
The affected Mobile Network operators (MNO) (13 in all) were issued with the directive and include, MTN, Airtel,
Smile, Etisalat, Globacom and Visafone. Others are Starcomms, Megatech Engineering Limited, Gicell Wireless Limited, Danjay Telecoms, Gamjitel, Multilinks and Natcoms.
But Ogunbanjo, who said subscribers had been treated unfairly for a long time by the telecoms operators, said more often than not, the operators were very heady and usually do not heed the regulator’s directives.
According to him, a case in point was when the Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu hosted Chief Executive Officers of telecoms operators in his office in Abuja where he sounded a note of warning to them to desist from sending unsolicited text messages and calls through their networks, or face sanctions.
He said the minister also told them to stop from under-declaring their revenue and profit, as this criminal act short-changes the government in its revenue generation. Ogunbanjo said the minister also warned them to ensure they roll over unused data from previous month to the following month, but that up till now; the operators were yet to comply.
He posited that it was on this basis that the association is calling on the NCC to ensure total compliance to this latest directive, adding that it was a good step in the right direction.
He stressed that it was not out of place for operators to send text messages about their services but that the NCC must ask them to limit such windows to two. He explained that those two windows should be when a subscriber loads an airtime or ask for account balance, saying such information could be passed at these two times.
The NATCOMS boss also carpeted the Value Added Services (VAS) providers insisting that they are partners in crime with the telecoms operators.
He enjoined the NCC to make sure the operators stop playing the nuisance with the barrage of text messages and calls to subscribers.
When asked what the association would do in case the telcos refused to comply, Ogunbanjo was unequivocal as he said the association would be left with no option than to drag both the erring operators and the NCC to court.