BY RICHARD UDOFIA
Stiff Punishment awaits Value Added Service, VAS, Providers and Mobile Network Operators, MNOs, who derive pleasure in exploiting consumers on unsubscribed products without their consent.
At least the commission wouldn’t mind to explore either legal measures or, revoking of licenses and fining of erring service providers will soon be the order of the day if complaints by subscribers persist.
Executive Vice Chairman of Nigerian Communication Commission, NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, expressed the intentions to carry out these actions, in Lagos, at an interactive session with the VAS providers and MNOs on the regulatory framework for the VAS segment of the Nigerian Telecoms Industry.
He was represented by the Executive Chairman (Stakeholder Management), Dr. Okechukwu Itanyi who also frowned at various strategies which the VAS providers have adopted to deceive consumers.
Itanyi said the commission has received numerous complaints from consumers regarding forceful activation of VAS by service providers without subscribers’ consent.
Worse still, these services are auto-renewed resulting to perpetual lock-in of subscribers by the VAS Operators, he said.
He recalled that the commission has witnessed high level of Telemarketing, especially unsolicited messages by Mobile Network Operators and Value added service providers soliciting for subscription for their services which most times constitute nuisance to consumers.
However, he supported the position of consumers who complain that these operators sometimes give free trial for certain period, only to automatically charge subscribers for these services after the expiration of the trial period without their consent.
Itanyi said that the commission was really concerned about these unhealthy developments and as they are not in line with the commission’s principle of firmness, fairness and forthright, may wield the big stick soon.
However, he expressed hope that with the interaction realistic principles to move the Nigerian Telecoms Industry forward would be achieved.
however, in a sharp reaction, the providers warned the NCC not to over regulate the industry because VAS providers were also in the system for business.
For instance, one of the providers, representing Wireless Association Service Providers of Nigeria, WASPON, Mr. simeon Aderinola, advised the commission not to over regulate the telecom sector, because it will prevent innovation and competition among firms.
Aderinola further said that VAS providers who have acquired licenses through the NCC, should also be allowed to do business, develop and promote Local Content in the industry.
However, another representative, Mr. Ibitoye Ogunjobi pleaded with NCC to thread softly on their findings as operators of VAS and MNOs are in the market for investment reasons.
Ogunjobi said that if stiff sanctions are enforced on operators, these investors will simply withdraw from the industry and go to other countries where the business environment is conducive.
Dr. Onyebuchi Chima, a participant at the event kicked against any sanction by the NCC on operators who have legally acquired the VAS license as short code facility is one facility they are entitled to enjoy as stakeholder in the industry.
In a swift reaction, Head of Legal and Regulatory Services, NCC, Mrs. Yetunde Akinloye said that the commission has come up with a licensing framework mandating interested companies who are interested in issuing short codes to tender their Memorandum of Understanding with MNOs, which plays a platform for business activities.
Akinloye reacted contrary to positions that having acquired VAS licenses operators should be handed blank cheque to operate and possibly exploit subscribers