Subscribers Threaten to Drag NCC to Court over Unsolicited SMS

  • Says NCC Not Consumer-centric

Emma Okonji

The National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS) has threatened to institute an action against the telecoms industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in court over the regulator’s failure to sanction telecoms operators and Value Added Service (VAS) providers who consistently send unsolicited text messages, otherwise known as Short Message Service (SMS) to subscribers.

The warning came on the heels of the recent statement credited to NCC that it would continue to protect telecoms subscribers from unsolicited SMS by operators.

NCC had last week, issued a strong warning to telecoms operators to respect the rights of consumers and put an end to unsolicited SMS, but the warning rather angered subscribers, who felt NCC no longer have the feelings of subscribers, hence it kept ‘barking without biting’ on the issue of unsolicited SMS, which they said, had lingered for too long, without any definite action to stop the embarrassing situation.

President of NATCOMS, the umbrella body of telecom subscribers, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, who gave the warning in Lagos, told THISDAY that subscribers would not hesitate to challenge the NCC in court over its delay in taking action against telecoms operators, who consistently broadcast unsolicited messages to subscribers, a situation he described as highly embarrassing, because subscribers are charged for such unserious messages, which are rather promotional and market-driven for the operators.

According to Ogunbanjo, operators and VAS providers have long been involved in the broadcast of unsolicited messages, and the subscribers had long been complaining to NCC and the operators themselves, yet NCC kept warning operators without taking decisive action that would compel them to put a final stop to such broadcast.

“After several complaints from subscribers, NCC had to introduce the uniform ‘Do-Not-Disturb code that gives subscribers the freedom to choose the messages they receive, and went ahead to fix July 1, 2016 as the deadline for compliance, yet the operators continue to broadcast such messages after the deadline, for their personal gains and to the embarrassment of subscribers, without the NCC acting,” Ogunbanjo said. According to him, “Enough of all these warnings from NCC, what we want as subscribers is for NCC to sanction the operators involved and others will sit up.”

Describing unsolicited SMS as embarrassing, Ogunbanjo said there would be times when a subscriber decides to cool-off his or her head for a while, only to be distracted by unsolicited SMS or calls used basically by operators for marketing purposes. He said a subscriber may be expecting bank alert on monetary transfer, only to be distracted by unsolicited SMS that has nothing to do with the expected financial transaction.

Other subscribers complained that the rate at which the messages were broadcast were so rampant that the storage capacity of their mobile phones gets filled up fast.

Part of the NCC’s statement last week to protect telecoms subscribers read: The Nigerian Communications Commission has reiterated its readiness to protect subscribers from the nuisance and irritations of unsolicited text messages and calls from mobile network operators.

The Director, Public Affairs, at NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo, noted in the statement, that in spite of earlier warnings to telecommunication service providers to activate their Do-Not-Disturb facility which gives subscribers the freedom to choose the messages they receive, the Commission is still inundated with complaints by subscribers of continuing text harassment by operators.

The direction issued to industry operators to activate the 2442 Do Not Disturb Short Code took effect from July 1, 2016. Ojobo explained that the direction mandates the operators to take immediate action which will allow the subscribers to take informed but independent decisions on what messages to receive from the networks.

He observed that industry compliance doesn’t seem to have matched the seriousness of the direction thus, compelling the Commission to issue a final warning to the operators.

Ojobo however called on the service providers to immediately comply with the direction as further complaints from the subscribers would be taken as serious infractions to a major regulatory intervention by the Commission.