September 14, 2016

Still on unsolicited text messages

Still on unsolicited text messages

File: Telecom (GSM neteworks)

By Prince Osuagwu, Laju Iren & Geraldine Anunukem

If there is a group of people that need to be told, “Do not disturb”, it probably should be the telecommunication operators in Nigeria. With unlimited access to all the numbers on their various networks, Nigerians are at their mercy with incessant unsolicited text messages, annoying mobile adverts and unwarranted short code calls that liken a subscriber to a lady forced to listen to a suitor’s advances.

File: Telecom (GSM neteworks)

File: Telecom (GSM neteworks)

Some of these come in droves, most times, draining the battery po wer level of the phone, unsettling and distracting subscribers from legitimate duties or actions. MTN sends messages like “enjoy unlimited music streaming on music+ @N10 daily. Dial *406# to join the new pulse” Glo will say “John Bull special! Set the latest trending songs as your caller tune! Get Prof John Bull by Flavour @N50 for 30 days, dial *7728*007# Now!!”

Subscribers on Airtel receive such luring but unsolicited messages like”money is not everything but it is almost everything. Grab your own money making offer today. Send MM to3826 now! N10″ while Etisalat subscribers, among numerous of such messages would have to cope with “Get 3 Wizkid Hot tunes in 1 music box! Free for 7 days. Reply 9 to get this box….renewal N50 after”

Subscribers complain

Subscribers complain that the common thing among these messages is that they can come several times in a day, with attendant disturbing alerts and eventually, do not give any subscriber the option of stopping them from coming in.

Meanwhile, if the rules and regulations in the sector were to be complied with, the issue of unsolicited messages should have been a thing of the past, considering that the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC earlier this year, directed all operators to activate a short code, 2442, through which subscribers can opt-in to a database that would enable them register their numbers against unsolicited messages.

However, the constant invasion of subscribers’ phones by telcos is still a present reality. Hi-Tech’s investigations on the issue, however, reveal that not only those operators were not too keen to display the code; subscribers are also largely unaware of it.

Nine out of ten subscribers that spoke to Hi-Tech are unaware of this provision by the NCC. One subscriber, Miss Princess Orudu told our reporters: “I have never heard about the do not disturb code before, I still get unsolicited text messages from my service provider, but I never knew there was a way to stop it.”

Although it is unlikely that after the MTN fine saga last year, telcos would risk the wrath of the NCC by ignoring its directive and incurring a N5 million fine, they have instead resorted to just barely communicating the code and not integrating it into the unsolicited messages.

No network also, has publicized the code as  a promotional advert. In what would seem like an effort to fulfil all righteousness, telcos sent text messages to inform subscribers of the development. Ironically, subscribers conditioned by the constant text message badgering, treated such messages as  junk message-by ignoring them.

NCC roars; last warning!

However, the NCC has insisted that no operator will escape its wrath if it is discovered that they still have the penchant for dishing out unsolicited messages without giving the subscribers the option to allow or stop receiving such messages.

The regulator apparently spoke in reaction to deluge of complaints that it is still business as usual for the operators as far as unsolicited messages are concerned. It frowns at the development and vows to protect subscribers from the nuisance and irritations of unsolicited text messages and calls from mobile network operators.

Director, Public Affairs of NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo, noted at the weekend, that in spite of earlier warnings to telecommunication service providers to activate their Do-Not-Disturb facility which gives subscribers the freedom to choose the messages they receive, the Commission is still inundated with complaints by subscribers of continuing text harassment by operators.

The directive  issued to industry operators to activate the 2442 Do Not Disturb Short Code took effect from July 1, 2016.

Ojobo explained that the directive mandates the operators to take immediate action which will allow the subscribers to take informed but independent decisions on what messages to receive from the networks.

He observed that industry compliance doesn’t seem to have matched the seriousness of the directive thus, compelling the Commission to issue a final warning to the operators.

According to him, “the directive takes into cognizance the broad range of services, which include: Banking/Insurance/Financial products, Real estate, Education, Health, Consumer Goods and Automobiles, Communication/ Broadcasting/ Entertainment/ IT, Tourism and /Leisure, Sports, Religion (Christianity, Islam, others), and directed the operators to give the necessary instructions and clarifications that will enable subscribers subscribe to a particular service/services/none at all.

“In fact, a Full DND which is SMS ‘STOP” to 2442 does not allow the subscriber to receive any unsolicited messages from the operators at all. The commission is calling on the service providers to immediately comply with the directive as further complaints from the subscribers would be taken as serious infractions to a major regulatory intervention”, he added.