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).
A document obtained at the weekend, dated April 19, which emanated 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.
As such, the NCC, in the new directive said the licensees were mandated by the Consumer Code of Practice Regulations to conduct telemarketing in accordance with “call” or “do not call” (DND) preferences recorded by the consumer at the time of entering into a contract for services of after.