A regulatory directive handed down to the mobile network operators (MNOs) to stem the tide of unsolicited text messages syndrome is being frustrated by the telecoms companies, New Telegraph has reliably gathered.
According to investigation, while the directive was given to the operators sometime last year, they have continued to shun its implementation, in their plot to continue to retain the estimated N360 billion yearly revenue illegally accruing to them through unsolicited text messages.
Consequently, while the over 152 million subscribers in the country face the economic losses to unsolicited texts, the MNOs continue to rake in billions of naira from such fraudulent practices, according to findings.
Unsolicited texts are Short Messaging Service (SMS) not asked for, not requested for, not demanded for and not canvassed for by subscribers, but which they are automatically subscribed to without clear opt-out option.
According to checks by this newspaper, while the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has stepped up measures at stemming cases of unsolicited text messages through a clear directive, operators have failed in implementing the directive to the letter.
A document exclusively obtained by New Telegraph showed that the regulator had, over the years, received series of complaints and has been strategising on what could be done as a final reprieve for subscribers to be set free from the bondage of illegal deductions through unsolicited text messages. According to the document, the commission had received various complaints from telecoms subscribers regarding unsolicited text messages and nuisance calls from mobile network operators in the industry.
“Following these complaints, the commission had monitored the networks to ensure that Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) create a Do Not Disturb (DND) database for subscribers, who do not want to receive unsolicited messages on their lines,” the document said. It was, however, gathered that while the MNOs have set up such facility, the awareness around such facility by the networks to the benefits of subscribers has been lean.
“Whereas, the commission’s compliance checks revealed that most MNOs have set up the DND facility on their networks, however, the awareness of existence of this facility is very low because the MNOs are reluctant to sensitise their subscribers on the availability of this facility and how to opt into same,” the document stated.
The NCC, in the document, noted that further investigations suggested that operators were not actually keen on the DND, as this may affect their revenue stream from value added services.
Meanwhile, it was gathered that the NCC had commenced the process of issuing a directive that MNOs dedicate a short code on their networks for use by subscribers to optin to the DND database restricting unsolicited marketing messages, voice and SMS on their mobile station international subscriber directory number (MSISDNs). MSISDN is a number used to identify a mobile phone number internationally including a country code and a National Destination Code, which identifies the subscriber’s operator.
Already, the Director of Public Affairs, NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo, told New Telegraph that the avalanche of complaints received by the regulator through its toll-free customer line, 622, was an indication the MNOs have been paying lip service to customer complaints.
“We have made series of regulations and directives, including the DND directive and accordingly, we have handed them down to the operators and as you know, for every infraction, there is appropriate sanction and the regulator will not hesitate to invoke those sanctions in the interest of the industry,” he said. Speaking with New Telegraph, President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers (NATCOMS), Mr. Deolu Ogunbanjo, who also gave the estimated losses by subscribers to unsolicited text messages, noted that none of the telecoms network has clearly complied with the NCC directive on DND database.
“And if there is anyone of them doing it now, I wonder how well they are communicating it to their customers and how many telecoms consumers are aware of this development,” Ogunbanjo said. But in a telephone interview with New Telegraph, the President of the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Mr. Gbenga Adebayo, defended the MNOs, saying not all the unsolicited SMS originate from the operators’ networks.