By Emma Okonji
In a renewed effort to reduce the rising trend of unsolicited Short Message Service (SMS), otherwise known as text messages that are doled out by telecoms operators (Telcos) and Value Added Service (VAS) providers, to telecoms subscribers in an incessant manner, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has written a strong worded letter to operators, directing them to stop henceforth.
Prior to now, NCC had only called the operators to several forums to discuss ways on how best to reduce the messages, which subscribers often complained about. Subscribers had said that such unsolicited text messages were becoming embarrassing to them.
At such forums held in Abuja and Lagos, Telcos will always exonerate themselves and shifting the blame on VAS operators, but the situation continued unabated, while subscribers continued to suffer the brunt.
Worried about the rising rate of unsolicited SMS released to subscribers’ mobile phones, including the personal mobile phones of NCC staff, the NCC on April 19, 2016, wrote to all operators, and warned them to stop broadcasting unsolicited SMS to their subscribers.
The letter partly read: “The commission in line with its regulatory functions of protecting the interest of consumers as provided in sections 4(1)(b) and 105(1) of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA 2003), and ensuring the development of the Nigerian Communications Industry, is of the opinion that degradation of consumer quality experience through unsolicited telemarketing, should be curtailed.“
NCC said in the letter that the commission was inundated with complaints from subscribers about the menace of unsolicited text messages as well as calls from Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), which have impacted negatively on consumer quality experience in the telecoms sector.
It said that the commission, through its monitoring activities, confirmed that though some MNOs have set up the ‘Do Not Disturb’ facility on their networks, which is a system that prevents the subscribers from receiving unsolicited text messages when subscribed to the code, the awareness by subscribers of the availability of the ‘Do Not Disturb’ facility on the MNOs networks and how to opt out of the facility is very minimal and unsatisfactory.
NCC informed licensees who provide telecoms services to subscribers, that they are mandated by the Consumer Code of Practice Regulations 2007 to conduct telemarketing in accordance with any call or ‘Do Not Disturb’ preferences recorded by the consumer at the time of entering into a contract for services or after.
NCC therefore advised operators in the letter to take the warning seriously or risk facing sanction.