By Prince Osuagwu
Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has said it will sanction any telecommunications operator in Nigeria, which engages in what it described as forceful subscription and unlawful deductions from consumers.
The commission said, yesterday, that “as a consumer-centric regulator, the NCC 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.
“The commission mandated several initiatives to tackle the menace. These include the institution of a comprehensive investigation and resolution process, the Do-not-Disturb, DND, facility, and the imposition of sanctions for breach.
“Disturbed by the persistent occurrence of the menace despite these measures, the commission carried out a long and comprehensive investigative audit into VAS subscriptions across all Mobile Network Operators, MNOs and VAS platforms.
The investigative audit was led by the Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Department of the Commission, with participation from its other departments such as the Technical Standards and Network Integrity, TSNI, Consumer Affairs Bureau, CAB, Legal and Regulatory Services, LRS, and Licensing and 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, leading to the conclusion that a huge percentage of VAS services were not voluntarily subscribed for.
The audit team also found that some providers had implemented disingenuous mechanisms by which large numbers of innocent consumers were “forcefully” subscribed to VAS platforms, leading to regular deduction of their airtime without their consent.
“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. The commission is also considering, and will impose appropriate sanctions as necessary. This outcome justifies the commission’s commitment to evidence-based interventions.”
The commission also threatened suspend or out rightly decommission some VAS platforms and services in the overall interests of consumers.