Fresh Sanctions Dangle On Telecoms Firms

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Some Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) companies in Nigeria may soon incur fresh sanctions from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC). The sanction is precipitated by the current telecoms companies’ practice of automatically migrating subscribers to certain data platform without their customers’ consent.

Already, the Commission said it has noticed, with dismay, that mobile operators are now in the habit of automatically migrating subscribers to Pay-As-U-Go (PAYG) on data services once their subscribed data plan expires at the end of the month without first seeking the consent of those data subscribers.

In the third quarter of the year, the NCC had warned the operators against such practices, following the deluge of complaints received from subscribers on automatic migration of data bundle package to PAYG billing on depletion of the data bundle.

Consequently and pursuant to section 53(1) of the NCA 2003, the Commission on 3rd August 2015 directed all mobile service operators to comply with a number of directions. In its first direction, NCC stated that “where a subscriber’s data bundle account is fully depleted appointbefore the due date, service providers should notify the subscriber via SMS, giving information regarding the tariff/billing rate for automatic migration.

In the second directive, the regulator noted that, “all service providers should henceforth stop auto-migration of subscriber’s data service to the Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG) account upon depletion of the data bundle account, except with the express consent and authorisation of the subscriber via SMS”. However, the Commission said a follow-up compliance check by the Commission revealed the varying degrees of compliance by the operators.

“Etisalat is in compliance with first direction counand second directive of the Commission; Globacom is in compliance with first direction as subscribers receive SMS detailing tariff rate for auto-migration on depletion of their data bundle.

“However, Globacom failed to obtain express consent from subscribers before migration to PAYG and therefore in violation of the second direction,” it said.

Also, the Commission said MTN has been in compliance with the first direction but failed to highlight the tariff rate for PAYG billing. “In addition, data service is not suspended on depletion of the data bundle account even without an authorisation via an SMS from the subscriber.”

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The telecoms umpire said its findings revealed that Airtel is not in compliance with the above directions. “Consequent upon the above, the Commission has issued a notice of intention to sanction the concerned service providers,” it added.

Speaking with New Telegraph on the development in Lagos, Director, Consumer Affairs Department, NCC, Alh. Abdullahi Maikano, warned the operators to desist from illegal deductions of subscribers’ airtime and data bundles through sneaky means without first seeking their customers consent.

“Heavy sanction awaits any operator that violates the laws of the country’s telecoms industry,” he told New Telegraph in an interview. Meanwhile, the Commission in its Compliance Monitoring Report for the third quarter also directed Wakanow.com to discontinue the sale of global travel Subscriber Identity Module (SIM).

“The Commission’s surveillance and intelligence gathering exercise revealed unauthorised sale of Global Travel SIM Cards by Wakanow. com.

Whereas our investigation confirmed that Wakanow.com did not have any valid telecoms licence, it also revealed that the SIM cards were not registered consistent to the provisions of the NCC Telephone Regulation on Subscriber Registration,” it said.

-newtelegraph

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