NCC Moves against Unsolicited Messages, Warns VAS Providers

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By Emma Okonji

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), last week, restated its position to sanitise the Value Added Service (VAS) segment of the telecoms sector, and insisted it would not hesitate to sanction erring VAS operators that were still involved in pushing out unsolicited messages to subscribers.

NCC made its position known during the first Bi-Annual Nigeria Valued Added Services Stakeholder’s Forum, which held in Lagos, and organised by NCC.

Some major consumers’ concerns in respect to VAS services include spam messages, fraudulent bank alerts, forceful subscriptions, among others, which NCC said negates the right of the telecoms consumers.

Aside unsolicited messages, NCC also made it clear that it has not shifted grounds on embargo placed on ‘auto-renewal’, which NCC said was forceful subscription, illegal and unacceptable.

NCC however made it clear that while VAS providers were licensed by the Commission and allowed to operate and provide value added services, consumers are also empowered through the Do-Not-Disturb (DND) facility to choose whether to allow or block access to VAS services.

The Director, Compliance, Monitoring and Enforcement at NCC, Mr. Efosa Idehen, while addressing VAS operators at the forum, said the Commission would not rest on its oars in protecting the rights of the consumers, and would continue to find a balance between consumers’ needs and the enabling opportunities that VAS providers offer to consumers, while mitigating the nuisance constituted by VAS providers who fail to play by the rules.

“VAS service has its advantages, as it encourages innovation, creativity and allows payment of utility bills. It increases revenue for the government in taxes, which is used in providing amenities for the benefit of consumers. It has contributed in promoting financial inclusion policy of the government and facilitated the creation of wealth for many Nigerians, but we will not allow its gains to be used as avenue to inflict pains on subscribers,” Idehen said. He added that the negative impact would expose consumers to receiving unsolicited messages, fraudulent deductions of consumers’ credit for VAS services not subscribed to, among others.

In the area of auto-renewal, Idehen said consumers should be given the choice to choose whether they want to renew their subscription or not and warned that the Commission would not hesitate to take action against VAS providers who force auto-renewal on consumers.

Executive Commissioner, Technical Services at NCC, Maska Ubale, said the VAS forum was one of the laudable initiatives embarked upon by the Commission to develop effective collaboration with relevant stakeholders for sustainable telecoms development.

Ubale who was represented by the Head, Technical Standards and Network Integrity Department at NCC, Bako Wakil, said as the ICT ecosystem was transforming daily, VAS content developers would have to collaborate with other stakeholders in the telecom Industry. The collaboration, Ubale added, would be needed to drive the proliferation of applications that would meet the needs of consumers.