Consumer satisfaction and meeting international standards of practice in the telecommunications industry are critical elements that influence the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC’s) regulatory activities.
The Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, stated this today, March 15, 2021, during a press conference organized by the the Commission in Abuja (Nigeria) to commemorate the World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) for the year 2021.
The Consumer Rights Day is observed every 15th day of March.
In this speech titled: Consumer Satisfaction: A Central Organizing Principle of our Regulatory Activities, the NCC boss said that subscribers can trust NCC on more Consumer-centric Regulations.
NCC and the Global Vision of a Satisfied Consumer
The EVC recalled a few of the initiatives of the Commission, in order to spotlight how the Commission’s vision interconnects with the international consumer rights movement.
He said that the Commission declared 2017 as Year of the Telecom Consumer, in recognition of the central place the consumer occupies in the telecom ecosystem and in the emergent digital economy. In the same year, the World Consumer Rights Day focused on “Better Digital World”.
To this end, he said that the declaration by the Commission and the focus by WCRD 2017 emphasised the need to build ‘a digital world consumers can trust’.
“The theme for World Consumer Rights Day for 2021 is, ‘Tackling Plastic Pollution’. Activities and actions slated for this commemoration are to raise awareness and engage state and non-state actors on the global plastic pollution crisis. This is coming THREE years after the NCC drafted the Nigerian Communications Industry E-Waste Regulations in 2018”.
“The objective of the Regulation is to manage E-Waste; promote reuse, recycling and other forms of recovery; improve environmental management system of operators in the telecom industry; and reduce greenhouse emissions as well as enhance sustainable development efforts”, he said.
The Chief Telecoms Regulator in Nigeria further reconnected with the theme for this Year’s celebration, thus, “it bears restating, that, while the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is concluding processes to issue the regulation on Electronic Waste, it is mindful of the fact that many ICT and telecom devices have plastic components, whose waste materials could worsen plastic pollution.
“In other words, we reckon that improper disposal of such disused ICT-plastic embedded products have grave implication on public health, and especially in achieving Goals 11, 12 and 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030. These goals speak to the imperative of adhering to practices that enhance Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production; as well as Climate Action respectively”
Technical Activities focused on Consumer Protection against fakes
Still on NCC’s pursuit of Consumer satisfaction, Danbatta, said that the Commission, worried by the recurrent cycle of fraudulent deployment of fake and substandard mobile devices – usually made of iron and plastic components, collaborated with the Office of the National Security Adviser and other relevant government agencies to inaugurate a committee to implement Mobile Devices Management Systems (DMS).
“This initiative is designed as a Public-Private Partnership aimed at combating the proliferation of fake, counterfeit, substandard and cloned communication devices in the telecommunications industry. The expected result of this initiative is that, only genuine materials malleable to enduring usage are available for consumer use.
“The Commission also implemented a strict type-approval process that ensures all equipment used in the telecommunications industry are of a suitable standard, both for the good of the consumers and for the preservation of our environment.
He also reiterated the coincidental connection between the 2021 theme for World Consumer Rights Day, ‘Tackling Plastic Pollution”, and the proactive initiatives of the Commission towards protecting the environment as well as efforts on tackling electronic waste in Nigeria, which tells the story of a shared vision for a satisfied consumer.
NCC and Consumer-centric Regulations
The Nigerian Communications Act 2003 – enjoins the Commission to protect the interest of the consumers, which the Commission has done religiously, through subsidiary legislations, guidelines and directions that proactively address consumer concerns and stipulate responsibilities of all stakeholders.
“We had made declarations to curtail excesses of some operators and to expand the frontiers of freedom for the consumers. Warnings had been handed out and fines have been imposed on erring operators. Determinations have also been made by the Commission to ensure consumers are neither shortchanged nor denied their privileges and rights.
“The NCC demonstrated the foregoing to reveal the extent it could go to defend and protect the interests of telecom consumers; and to successively restate its commitment to its ethos of fairness, firmness and forthrightness – the doctrinal tripod of its regulatory mandate.
SIM card Registration Guideline: “The Commission has ensured full compliance with Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards registration guidelines by the service providers and telecom consumers. This is to ensure proper registration to stop the use of improperly-registered SIMs, which usage is difficult to track. Having a credible subscriber database helps in tracing a SIM card to the real owner in case of any criminal investigation”.
He said that will help in curbing the painful rise in tempo of kidnapping, robberies, banditry and similar crimes committed with the aid of the use of SIM cards.
SIM-NIN Integration: “We have made arrests and prosecutions in the past in this regard and through this effort, we have been able to sanitize the telecoms ecosystem of improperly-registered SIM cards that pose threat to national security.
“It is therefore pertinent to say that the linking of SIM and National Identity Number (NIN) database will further help us in this direction toward protecting the consumers and all citizens at large. In this regard, the Commission wishes to echo the voice of Mr. President by thanking all telecom subscribers for their understanding and co-operation in the ongoing SIM-NIN harmonization exercise.
Do Not Disturb: “The Commission has issued a number of Directions to service providers in order to ensure consumers are not shortchanged by telecom service providers. Some of the directions include: Direction on Do-Not-Disturb, Direction on Data Roll-Over, Direction on Automatic Renewal of Data Services, and Direction on Forceful Subscription to Data Services and Value-Added Services.
“The Management of the Commission also takes consumer information and education very seriously. Just recently, it approved the re-structuring of our legacy consumer outreach and engagement programmes.
“These modifications were made to increase our reach to telecom consumers wherever they are while also observing COVID-19 protocols.
The unveiling of Consumer Handbook
“Today, and right here, we are unveiling a new Consumer Handbook – a compendium of consumer information materials compiled to enhance education and protection of the consumer.
“In keeping with global best practice of digital public communication for information and complaints management, the Commission continued to leverage social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, to inform and educate consumers and to use them as complaints channels for the Commission. In addition, the NCC Consumer Web Portal serves as an alternative online channel for lodging complaints and making enquiries.
“The specially created toll free number 622 and DND short code 2442, are as active as ever. They are emplaced respectively to enable consumers to escalate unresolved complaints earlier reported to service providers, and to manage unsolicited messages. Just last month, we provided evidence that “NCC’s DND crashes unsolicited SMS by 96.6% in three years”.
“Also, the results we are getting through the NCC Toll-free Number 622 has been phenomenal. Thousands of complaints have been received from consumers and escalated by the Commission to service providers for quick resolution to the satisfaction of affected consumers. In our latest report, of the 11,327 genuine consumer complaints received through the 622 between 2019 and 2020, 11,288 which translate to 99.1%, have been successfully resolved.
“Furthermore, the Commission has reviewed the Consumer Complaint categories and Service Level Agreement (CC/SLA). The CC/SLA provides complaints categories, the timelines for resolving complaints and prescribes penalties for defaulting operators. This has ensured quantifiable improvements in consumer compliant management process by the operators.
“Additionally, in view of the challenges of security in the country, the Commission has completed and launched Emergency Communications Centers (ECCs) in 18 states and the Federal Capital Territory. The process for the completion of the centers in the remaining states of the federation is ongoing.
The EVC also said that NCC’s toll-free three-digit 112 Emergency Number is created to bring succor and necessary assistance from appropriate Response Agencies (RAs) to address emergency needs of citizens.
“Suffice it to say, that, the NCC seeks the occasion of this year’s World Consumer Rights Day to restate its commitment to Protecting, Informing and Educating the telecoms consumer. We call this our PIE Mandate to the consumers which embodies our philosophical commitment to strengthening all our consumer-centric initiatives and policies”.
Earlier in his welcome addressed, the Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management (NCC), Barr. Adeolu Akande, said, “Annually, as a rallying point, Consumers International – the global coalition of over 250 consumer advocacy groups and entities in more than 120 countries and territories – organise activities on 15th Day of the month March, with a thematic focus that calls attention to a topical issue of interest and concern to consumers in all regions of the world”.
Also speaking, the Chairman, industry Advisory Advocacy Forum (ICAF), Engr, Igho Majemite, said that over the years, NCC has created a veritable enabling environment for a robust telecommunication industry that speaks to good customer experience.
“NCC steadfastness in protection of the industry and consumers rights and privileges are not compromised.
“In achieving her goals, so many players are involved and one of these players is the industry consumer advisory forum (ICAF). It is an advisory body set up by NCC to look at thematic issues in the telecommunication business in Nigeria.
ICAF bandies these thematic issues and advises on implementable resolutions that are forwarded to NCC management. ICAF has provided many implemented resolutions like DND, Porting of phone lines, unused Data rollover and others to boost Consumer satisfaction.
He commended NCC’s efforts towards Consumer satisfaction, especially with the launch of a Consumer Handbook that is very informative and educative.
“It captured the necessary things a consumer needs to know in the telecommunication industry without ambiguity”, Igho said.