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NCC uncovers large volume of forceful subscriptions, illegal deductions by operators

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[FILE PHOTO] Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta. Photo/NgComCommission

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has uncovered huge, forceful, and illegal deductions of customers’ airtime by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in various Value Added Service (VAS) offerings.
   
NCC described the development as a great disservice to the over 160 million active telecoms subscribers in the country and the industry as a whole, and has mandated several initiatives to tackle the menace.

These include comprehensive investigation and resolution process, the Do-not-Disturb (DND) facility, and the imposition of sanctions against breach.

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The Commission explained yesterday that it is disturbed by the persistent occurrence of the menace, despite the measures articulated to tackle it.
   
NCC said its investigative audit was led its Compliance Monitoring & Enforcement Department, with participation from other departments such as the Technical Standards and Network Integrity (TSNI), Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB), Legal & Regulatory Services (LRS), and Licensing & Authorisation (L&A).
   
The telecoms regulator noted that the Audit team analysed subscribers’ Call Detail Records from MNOs and subscription logs from VAS providers over a period of two years, leading to the conclusion that a huge percentage of VAS services were not voluntarily subscribed for.
  
NCC said the audit team also found that some providers had implemented disingenuous mechanisms by which large numbers of innocent consumers were “forcefully” subscribed to VAS platforms, leading to regular deduction of their airtime without their consent.
    
The Guardian had reported some months back how illegal airtime deductions formed majority part of the over 13,880 abuses registered by subscribers against the MNOs.
     
Of the 13,380 complaints, billing issues accounted for 7,046 (51 per cent); Value Added Service issues followed with 1, 897 (14 per cent); SMS issues accounted for 1, 104 (8 per cent); Call set-up challenges recorded 1, 189 (9 per cent).
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The billing-related complaints include deductions from activations of unsolicited VAS and telecom promotions and products; over deduction (inaccurate charges); charges for unsuccessful calls and undelivered SMS; and charges for caller ring back tune not downloaded, among others.
   
The Commission has persistently insisted that actions of this sort are unacceptable, as they are in direct breach of the Nigerian Communications Act, and NCC’s many regulatory instruments on the matter, adding that such actions also undermine the very foundations of the customer/service provider relationship, that is, transparency and trust.

Based on the outcome of the investigative audit, the Commission said it will shortly be directing the indicted organisations to make refunds to affected consumers as appropriate.

The Commission is also considering, and will impose appropriate sanctions as necessary. This outcome justifies the Commission’s commitment to evidence-based interventions.

“We wish to use this opportunity to inform the general public that the Commission may suspend or outrightly decommission some VAS platforms and services in the overall interests of consumers. We assure consumers that these measures will be implemented with minimal inconvenience to them, and trust that we can count on the understanding of consumers who may be affected by these measures.
  
“The Commission assures all stakeholders that we will continue to use all available resources to protect the rights of consumers of telecoms services and to ensure that they get appropriate value for their interactions with service and platform providers.”


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