The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Ibrahim Isa Pantami, has issued a broad policy directive to the sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to immediately ensure that automatic voicemail issues are addressed on all existing phone lines, and the subscribers given the option of accessing the service via an activation code.
In a statement signed by the spokesperson to the Minister, Mrs. Uwa Suleiman, Pantami said: “Our attention has been drawn to the latest trend of financial exploitation by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in the country through the automatic activation of the voicemail service on their platforms. Based on recent reports reaching the office, the practice has gained momentum recently.
“The voicemail service should be accessed at the discretion of the subscriber and not by default. I find it worrisome and totally unacceptable that telecoms subscribers incur financial charges for a service they are compelled to use by default. Voicemail is not a popular service among mobile phone users in Nigeria, coupled with the language challenge among rural dwellers, who mostly do not understand the language deployed by these networks.”
According to the statement, “It is apparent that the recent clampdown on the exploitative activities of some mobile network operators in the country has beamed the searchlight on the sector properly, and some unpatriotic elements in the system are devising subtle, ingenious methods of defrauding Nigerians. The Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy under the current leadership of Dr. Pantami will neither overlook any act, regardless of how subtle it is, that undermines the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari nor condone any attempts to defraud Nigerians and indeed all subscribers.”
Pantami, however, called for a collective responsibility to ensure that the rights of consumers are protected, while providing a conducive business environment for mobile network operators in line with global best practices.