Lawmakers Move to Tame Unsolicited SMS, Calls

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Emma Okonji

In support of the recent warning letters issued by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to 13 telecoms operators, threatening to sanction them, should they continue to broadcast unsolicited short message service (SMS) and voice calls, otherwise known as telemarketing, members of the House of Representatives have said a new bill seeking to put an end to the menace, would soon be passed.

Chairman, House Committee on Communication, representing Ibadan South West Federal Constituency, Honourable Saheed Fijabi, who made the disclosure, said the bill, when passed into law, would address all cases of unsolicited SMS and voice calls, in order to protect the consumer right to privacy.

“As legislators, we are not happy that telemarketing still exists in the Nigerian telecoms space, despite the efforts put in place by the NCC to assuage it. What we did as legislators is to invite all telecoms operators to discuss the issue some time ago, but last week there was an amendment of the bill for the stoppage of unsolicited SMS in the country, and very soon there will be a law passed on unsolicited SMS,” Fijabi said.

According to him, the legislators are worried about poor service quality in the telecoms industry and would do everything possible to address the situation. So we will not like the subscribers to face various challenges in the telecoms space, hence our resolve to begin with unsolicited SMS and voice calls, before seeking to address the issue of poor service quality in the telecoms sector. It is a gradual process, and I know we will get over it soonest. The present crop of management staff of NCC is doing very well and we are willing to support them with enabling laws, Fijabi said.

According to him, the quality of data service is still low and the legislators are not happy about it, and this is the reason we are working to improve broadband penetration in Nigeria, the law maker said.
Meanwhile, the Canadian telecommunications regulator has asked all telecoms companies in the country to create a better system to protect their subscribers from unsolicited telemarketing.

The regulator, in a recent compliance and enforcement order, asked all Canadian telecommunications companies to develop network-level solutions to block illegitimate nuisance calls and propose opt-in filtering solutions for consumers to further reduce unsolicited calls.

Chairman, Canadian Telecommunications Regulator, Jean-Pierre Blais, in a statement issued this month, said: “Telecommunications service providers are in the best position to develop and implement call management solutions for the millions of Canadians tired of receiving nuisance calls, just as they have done for e-mail and text message.”

Canada’s unsolicited telecommunications rules provide a comprehensive framework to regulate unsolicited calls, including through the National Do Not Call List Rules, Telemarketing Rules and Automatic Dialing-Announcing Device Rules. But the regulatory body has said it is increasingly difficult to stop nuisance calls when callers use caller identification spoofing to mislead consumers.

The regulatory agency rejected suggestions by some companies that Section 36 of Canada’s Telecommunications Act prohibits carriers from using call-control techniques that would eliminate or reduce nuisance calls, but said that offering such services require its approval.

The Nigerian Communications Commission, last week, issued warning letters to 13 telecommunication companies in Nigeria, insisting they put an end to the broadcast of unsolicited SMS and voice calls, or risk sanction.
The Director, Public Affairs at NCC, Mr Tony Ojobo who confirmed the warning letters, said: “After several meetings, including those we held with the network providers, it became necessary to issue the latest ultimatum to redress the menace of incessant unsolicited text messages and phone calls for telemarketing via the various networks.”

NCC insisted that all other text messages and voice calls informing subscribers of new products and service offerings, must not be regarded as network-generated, but should be regarded as unsolicited marketing messages.