By Helen Ovbiagele, Woman Editor
We must be honest with ourselves and admit that the gsm service has brought a lot of relief to us in our communication system in this country. Just think! Where would any of us be without our mobile phone(s) in our pockets, handbags, or hand? Admit it! One would feel as if we were not properly dressed and prepared for that outing, appointment, or for the day.
We would feel cut off from our families, loved ones and friends. In short, many people would feel lost. I must confess that I was one of those who resisted the intrusion of this service into our lives, and for a while I refused to carry the one that a relation gave me around; not wanting to be a slave, or addicted to carrying a phone around. But all that’s history now as I find the gsm to be of immense help to my general well-being.
People I spoke to, admitted this as well. Good. That means we need this important service. More than this, it has created huge employment opportunity for our people; particularly the young people. This is just a great thing for us.
On the other hand, the gsm market in this country is of immense importance to service providers. None of them has gone under yet; instead, several more are coming to do business with us. I doubt if there’s any household in the country where there isn’t a single gsm phone.
Nigerians are Africans, and Africans do like to inter-relate and talk. Talk is our greatest pastime and we enjoy it very much, so, any service that will make talk easier, and communication better, is welcome. Service providers need us to make profits and to stay in business. This means they cannot afford to incur our wrath for long, and risk low patronage.
Since there’s this inter-dependence between service providers and their customers, it makes sense that there should be mutual respect, trust and transparent dealings between these two bodies.
A popular saying in the business world is ‘the customer is always right’. We’re right to demand good services. We’re right to demand honest and fair charges. If a service provider is running a promo and is offering bargain rates, there should be no hidden agenda which robs the customer of his/her money. Service providers shouldn’t tell us one thing and mean another. Nigerians are basically intelligent people, so, service providers shouldn’t play smart with us, using our own people, and insult our intelligence.
Luckily, our government set up a regulatory body to monitor the operations of communications service providers in the country in the form of the Nigerian Communications Commission,NCC.
The question on the lips of many gsm users right now is, is NCC a toothless bulldog that is unable to whip the service providers into line and get them to treat their customers decently with transparent honesty in this country? This body should prove that it isn’t asleep, like several others around.
When I shared my experience with readers the other week about how a gsm service provider lumbered me with a ring tune that I never consciously ordered, and continue to deduct N100 every month from my account, I thought mine was an isolated mistake, and that at worst, only a few other gsm users have such an experience. But unfolding reactions show that so many Nigerians are affected.
Also, I thought I’d publish just one set of readers’ experiences and move on to other things, but readers’ text messages on the issue, continue to come. In fact, the publication of readers’ reactions triggered off even a greater responses than before. Everyone has a story of dissatisfaction to tell. So, we’ll take a few and let the matter rest for now, as the HI-TECH Department of the Vanguard contacts NCC.
“The GSM companies get away with these robberies because of improper and ineffective regulation. This rip-off may not stop until the appropriate authorities stop looking the other way.”
“God bless you Helen. I’ve been seeking an outlet to vent my anger on the unasked for deductions by the service providers e.g. ‘4100’. NCC should, please, come to our rescue. Once again, thank you dear Helen.” (Steve Arum, Enugu)
“Your piece saved me from the gsm robbery ordeal. I rang this friend I rarely call and the ring tone I got was, ‘Press any key to record the tone.’ I waited to hear the tone. After a long pause, my friend’s voice came through. Surprise. I’ve since been careful not to accidentally press a key and be a victim. I am grateful to you. NCC should set up a front-desk to treat these anomalies. They should also find out why customer care lines are dead. Instead, we’re sent to their web site. The cheek of it is that it seems ownership of an internet is now a condition for using a gsm. – Henry.”
“Good day, madam, and thanks for sharing your experience on the gsm caller tunes. In fact, one of the three big providers is doing same to me, and I’ve even sent an e-mail severally, but no response. I think this is unfair as it amounts to fraud! God will help us all. Kind regards – Zikky Olorunmo, Warri.”
“Please, madam, help! I’m mad, paying N100 for ring tune I never asked for. Thanks – Austino.”
“Madam, thanks for your piece. You are not alone in the rip off. I abandoned a gsm line because you call Customer Care, and one hour later there’s still no response. A CDMA operator would say they’re charging per second, while actually charging per minute. It’s bad that NCC and Consumer Protection Council are not doing enough. It’s a rip-off by the service providers.”
“Madam, these gsm operators are terrible. I went thrice to register a gsm line I bought yet I could not make a call with it as the response I get is, ‘your registration failed.’”
“Thanks for this fine one on ring tunes tariffs by gsm service providers. But I don’t see why we can’t mention their names. Are they mobile thieves network or what? With flagrant profiteering propensity, they rip off Nigerians, supported by our anti-people leaders who killed NITEL and MTEL, and sold off its carcass.
Now, foreign communications firms impoverish us with prohibitive phone tariffs. Just calculate what you spend monthly on gsm and multiply it by millions! The major providers are richer than the Nigerian government. They squeeze us dry and take the money away. I wouldn’t be so sad if it were the Nigerian government making money from us and for us. Please, ma, devote another column to this issue, publishing reactions from your readers. Let them know our feelings about them. – Steve Bode Ekundayo, Benin.”