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Re: GSM ring tunes tariffs

Helen Ovbiagele, Woman Editor

In the write-up with the above title, I spoke about how a GSM service provider began to deduct N100 every month from my account for a ring tune I hadn’t consciously ordered for. On the advice of a reader, I did take my phone to one of the outlets of the service provider in question, two weeks ago,  to have the ring tune removed.

I was attended to by a polite young lady who asked if I didn’t like that particular ring tune.  I explained that I didn’t order it, and wanted it removed.  She agreed immediately and then fiddled with the keys on my phone. “Ma, I’ve removed it. You won’t feel the effect immediately, but after about four or five hours.”

I thanked her and left.  I decided to give more than the four hours she mentioned and I rang my line from another phone the next day.  The ring tune was still there, and till date.  I gave up. One couldn’t spare the time to go back to complain again.  I’m stuck with a ring tune that callers say comes full of noise and cracks.   In my piece I said N100 as tariff wasn’t a fortune, but I should have been asked first if I indeed ordered it, and then told the tariff.

Four readers responded to this, and told me that N100 a month from about one million gsm users is a fortune.  On reflection, these readers are right!  While it may not weigh too heavily on the pockets of some users, some would feel the impact, and the service providers would go smiling to the banks every month.

I haven’t mentioned any particular service provider in this write-up, but there were complaints about all the major GSM service providers.  So, it’s over to the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, to lay down the rules which would ensure that we get better and honest deals from all the telecoms companies in the country.

Readers responded well to the piece, with various stories of rip-offs and poor services.  We’re sorry we’re not able to publish the lot.

“Helen, I bless you for your article on the legality of some GSM tariffs.  Let the truth be told, my service provider, one of the big three, needs to clean up its image, being dented by those ‘smart Alecs’ ripping off their customers.  Name it, caller tunes, espn, epl, 4040, etc., even if there is a subscription, one should be able to discontinue at will.

The net has been my favourite, as a patriot, but I have ceased to recharge my line on the advice of its customer care service, as a way of cutting off the unwanted promos.  I just keep that line for receiving calls because of my several contacts.  We should not be force-fed with unwanted baggage.  Lebi HMC.

“Madam, I saw and read your write-up on the complaints on unauthorised charging of customers by telecoms companies.  I had similar complaints and more.  They never tell you how to get out of these schemes they force people get into.  For example, I was invited by one of them to buy a recharge card of N5000, and enjoy 25 per cent  bonus for use on their lines only.

Within six days of buying the recharge card, and more than N1,000 still in the bonus account, the balance was wiped off.  On inquiry through their customer care line, I was informed that the bonus should be utilised within one week of purchase of the recharge card.  This was not part of the conditions of the promo in the advert.  I think it is very unfair.  Please, tell the world, and possibly NCC and Consumer Protection Council of these unsavoury deals.   Thanks (Idris Yahuza, Abuja)”

“Auntie Helen, good day!  With regard to the piece ‘GSM ring tunes: Are they legal?’ My candid advice to Nigerians is that they should not be carried away by the so-called attractive tariffs offered them by telecoms companies.The average Middle or Far-East business man is very slippery in character and can’t be trusted.  So, look before you leap.” Celestine.

“Dear Helen, I just read your piece on GSM ring tunes tariffs.  Let me share my experience. Sometime ago, I received same type of text that my account had been debited with N50 for a ring tune I never subscribed to.  I was very busy at that point in time, so I resolved to get back to it, but I forgot until a friend who is a traditional title holder called to tell me that the new ring tune on my phone was a disco tune. I’m 70 years old, so I could not have such a tune.

I went to the service provider to find out if, I, as a subscriber, is entitled to a ring ture of my choice.  They told me that I have that privilege.  I then asked on whose authority was my ring tune changed to an embarrassing one.  They were apologetic when I told them that I will sue them, because it amounted to stealing.  Helen, you’re wrong to assume that a monthly deduction of N100 is not a fortune.  If deducted from the accounts of one million subscribers, they will earn a cool N100 million without any sweat.  – AbdAziz Badamasi, Ogbomoso.”

“Thanks for your piece on ring tunes.  I call what one of the major service providers is doing to me as pure 419.  For about two months now, it imposed on me a local music I never subscribed to, and keeps deducting money from my account.  I sent dereg to their 7728 to stop it, but to no avail, but they have no problem taking money at will for unsolicited service.  This fraud should stop. – Sam.”

“Madam Helen, please don’t encourage fraud by saying that an unauthorised monthly deduction of N100 from your gsm account by a service provider is not a fortune.  It is a fortune, whichever way you look at it.  If you’re in the red at your bank to the tune of N100, they’re not going to waive it.  You must pay.  Also, cleverly and to ensure that even the person with no income can use their services, GSM companies now have recharge cards of N50.

Clearly, N100 is a fortune to many people in this country.  When it is deducted from the accounts of over a million people who don’t even know of the deduction, it’s a staggering amount.  NCC should, as a matter of urgency, wake up to their responsibility of checking the excesses of these gsm service providers.  There should be transparency in their operations in this country.  Pa Inyang, Calabar.

“Mrs Ovbiagele, the country Nigeria is synonymous with the term 419, as you can confirm if you log onto the internet.  Isn’t it amazing that smart as the average Nigerian is supposed to be in shady deals (according to the outside world), we allow 419 to be played on us on our soil by these gsm companies run mainly by foreigners?  They do it daringly and with impunity too. Is the regulating body, NCC, asleep or has it been disbanded?  We’re waiting to see what they will do.  Thanks. – A reader.  ”

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