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Minister orders deactivation of automatic voice mails across networks

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•ATCON insists service should be optional

The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Pantami, has ordered the deactivation of Automatic Voice Mails (AVM), across all Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in Nigeria. Pantami claimed that based on recent reports reaching his office, the practice has gained momentum in recent times.
   
The Minister in a statement yesterday said the latest trend of financial exploitation by MNOs in the country is through automatic activation of voicemail service on their platforms. According to him, the voicemail service should be accessed at the discretion of the subscriber and not by default. Pantami said the exercise is worrisome and totally unacceptable, as 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.‘‘It is apparent, that the recent clampdown on the exploitative activities of some MNOs 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,” he stressed.      

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Pantami said the current leadership will neither overlook any acts, regardless of how subtle, that undermine the anti-corruption crusade of President Muhammadu Buhari, nor condone any attempts to defraud Nigerians and indeed, all subscribers.
   
In the light of this, Pantami issued a broad policy directive to the sector regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to immediately ensure that issues regarding automatic voicemails are addressed on all existing phone lines, and the subscribers given the option of accessing the service via an activation code.
  
“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the rights of consumers are protected, while providing a conducive business environment for MNOs, in line with global best practice,” Pantami stated.In response to the Minister’s directive, the President, Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), Olusola Teniola, said the AVM should be an option for a subscriber to activate on hi/herr SIM card.
   
In an email chat with The Guardian, Teniola said: “It is usual that this service is not switched on by default so that a caller to the subscriber doesn’t incur any voice charges when a subscriber is not reachable or available for some reasons. In countries that are used to having a voice mail recording system on their home phone lines the activation of AVM on the mobile SIM card is just an extension of what is the norm.
  
“However, in Nigeria, the AVM is not a service that has gained acceptance and thus more customer awareness is required to fully understand the implications associated with using such service.”On how the AVM works, Teniola said typically, AVM provides a caller the option to leave a voice message if the called number is not available, and provides the subscriber an ability to access a voice mail system and retrieve a message, and return the call without losing important calls. This is useful for business calls and emergency situations.
    
On deactivation, Teniola said: “It is very easy and quick to do. In fact, the subscriber can switch this service off by dialing a telecoms operator defined USSD code to turn it off.”
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Isa Pantamivoice mails
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