NCC Uncovers Forceful Deductions by Telcos, to Order Refund to Affected Subscribers

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The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), is set to direct telcos to refund several illegal deductions from subscribers. This is coming after the commission said it had uncovered a large volume of illegal deductions by network providers through forced subscriptions to Value Added Services.

In a statement, the commission said, “the Nigerian Communications Commission has noted with great displeasure the unacceptably high level of consumer complaints in respect of forceful subscriptions to Value-Added Services (VAS), as well as airtime deductions for these subscriptions…. Based on the outcome of the investigative audit, the Commission will shortly be directing the indicted organisations to make refunds to affected consumers as appropriate.”

Telcos Continue to Default Despite Regulations

Recall that in April, the commission imposed a N500,000 fine on telcos that disregarded the Do-Not-Disturb (DND) spam blocking measure.

NCC

The DND is an initiative of the NCC that enables subscribers block unsolicited text messages about promos and services, otherwise known as Value-Added Services (VAS).

It is however shocking to find out that despite these measures put in place to curb the menace, the telcos are still defaulting and have for the past 2 years. While, the total amount of illegal deductions was not made known, the commission however disclosed the steps it took to arrive at these findings.

Disturbed by the persistent occurrence of the menace despite its initiatives, the NCC carried out an investigative audit into VAS subscriptions across all Mobile Network Operators (MNO) and VAS platforms. The investigative audit was led by the Compliance Monitoring & Enforcement Department of the Commission, along with 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 audit team analyzed subscribers’ Call Detail Records from MNOs and subscription logs from VAS providers over a period of two years, and found out that a huge percentage of the VAS services allegedly subscribed for were not voluntary.

The audit team also found that some providers use dubious means to “forcefully” subscribe consumers to the VAS platforms, leading to regular deduction of their airtime without their consent. These the commission says, “undermine the very foundations of the customer/service provider relationship, that is, transparency and trust.”

The communications regulator says it is also “considering, and will impose appropriate sanctions as necessary”. It would be interesting to see how all these impositions would pan out considering the minimal effect such initiatives have had in the past.


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