Consumer protection seeks to promote a fair, accessible and sustainable market place for consumer products and services. In the telecommunications sector, consumers experience problems in different areas such as poor quality of service that result in dropped calls, unsolicited text messages, credit depletions and poor Internet connectivity, among others.
The licensing, privatisation and liberalisation of telecommunications companies in Nigeria heralded full competition in which the sector is now dominated by private corporate entities formed essentially for the purpose of making profit.
This has exposed consumers to exploitation and denial of the right to good quality service. As the industry regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, has launched a number of programmes and campaigns meant to tackled these menaces. What have been the impact since the assumption of office by Professor Umar Danbatta as the Executive Vice Chairman? You will find out the answer in this report which is a continuation of TechEconomy.ng chronicles of NCC’s accomplishments since 2015:
Our findings show that consumer satisfaction, perhaps, is more profound in the agenda of the Commission which reflects in the Item 6 “consumer protection and empowerment”.
In the last four years, the Commission has intensified efforts at protecting and empowering consumers of telecoms services by developing new and sustaining existing initiatives in this direction.
Some of these initiatives include the popularisation of mobile number portability (MNP) service to give consumers wider choice to migrate from one network to another without changing their original line.
This has also helped consumers from indiscriminately purchasing Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) cards to achieve their objective of being on another network that offer better service delivery.
2017 as Year of the Consumer
The declaration of 2017 as Year of the Consumer was another giant step by the Commission. The philosophy of this initiative was dedicate 2017 and beyond to addressing critical issues affecting telecom, consumers in the industry.
It is, therefore, interesting to note that since the 2017 declaration, NCC’s efforts at implementing consumer-centric initiatives have increased.
This underscores the importance the Commission places on consumer a critical stakeholder in the telecoms value-chain.
Telecoms Consumer Parliament (TCP)
Suffice it to say that in the last four years, the Commission has sustained periodic consumer engagement, on a continuous basis, through its various outreaches such as the Telecoms Consumer Parliament (TCP), the Consumer Outreach Programme (COP), the Consumer Town Hall Meeting (CTM), the Elite Forum as well as its Consumer Conversation forum, among others.
Toll-Free Number, 622
The NCC has demonstrated unflinching commitment to consumer in terms of consumer complaints resolution. For instance, through the creation of the Toll-Free Number, 622, as a second-level mechanism for consumer complaints resolution, telecoms consumers have found easier to escalate any service-related complaints they might have to the Commission for prompt resolution.
According to NCC report, between January 2017 and December 2018, for instance, the Commission received a total of 118,784 complaints from consumers, of which a total of 92,757, representing 78 per cent of total complaints received during the two years period, were successfully resolved to the satisfaction of telecom consumers.
A similar report by the Commission showed that between January 2019 and October 2019 alone, a total of 19,841 complaints were received from telecoms consumers across its various consumer complaints channels. Of these, the NCC successfully resolved a total of 17,851, representing a 90 percent success rate of consumer complaints resolution during the period. It is noteworthy that a total of 18, 717 complaints were lodged to the Commission through the NCC Contact Centre.
Little wonder, then, that based on the satisfaction they enjoyed in getting their complaints resolved by the Commission, a total of 19,345 satisfied consumers sent notes of commendation/appreciation to the Commission via phone calls made to the NCC Contact Centre and e-mails received via the NCC Consumer Portal. All of these were to appreciate the various regulatory interventions that helped them in satisfactorily resolving their service-related issues.
Consumer exposure to unsolicited text messages has declined drastically through the popularisation by the Commission and the resultant activation of the DND facility by the subscribers.
The DND facility has significantly helped the consumers to control unsolicited text messages. As of October 2019, a total of 22,356, 919 subscribers have activated the DND service either fully or partially.
Further to its consumer centric regulatory approach, the Commission has, so far, issued a number of regulatory Directions to operators.
They include the direction on data roll-over, which enables consumers to roll over unused data for period of time, ranging from one day to seven days, depending on their data plan; and the direction on forceful subscription of data services and VAS, which directs service providers to desist from forceful/automatic renewal of data services without prior consent of subscribers. All these have continued to positively impact on the consumer’s quality of experience (QoE).
The Commission, in 2019, also stepped up operators’ compliance with service level agreement with respect consumer complaints management.
In 2019, for instance, the NCC revised its Consumer Complaints & Service Level Agreement (CC/SLA) for the purpose of improving consumer complaint management and resolution by the service providers in a much prompter manner.
More importantly, the focus of the NCC’s Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF)’s Open Forum held in the fourth quarter of 2019 was how to further protect the consumers with respect to financial frauds committed by criminals using telecoms platforms.
As a testament of its “multi-stakeholder spirit’ and in continuation of its efforts towards strengthening inter-agency collaboration, the NCC, in November 2019, inaugurated a 26-member multi-sectoral committee to combat the issue of financial frauds using telecoms or digital platforms.
The 26-man committee drew membership from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), the NCC, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC), Nigerian Inter-Bank Settlement System (NIBSS), National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) and the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON).
Other organisations with representation on the Committee include the banks, security agencies such as the Office of the National Security Adviser (ONSA), the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Independent Corrupt Practices other Related Offences Commission (ICPC), Nigeria Police Force (NPF), Nigeria Financial Intelligence Unit (NFIU) and the Federal Ministry of Justice.
To be continued…