NCC meets operators, VASP over complaints

By Kokumo Goodie, Lagos, Nigeria 

Worried by the avalanche of complaints by subscribers and the general public over unsolicited text messages and fraudulent deduction of air time, the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) this week met with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and Value Added Services Providers (VASPs) to explore ways out of the challenges.

A mobile value-added service (VAS) is a service that is associated with non-core services. All services beyond standard voice calls and fax transmissions fall into this category. They are also licensed by the NCC to provide services that run on the network of the MNOs.

According to industry statistics, mobile VAS is currently worth over $200 million annually with huge potential to grow to $500 million in the next five years.

However, NCC said its findings showed that the exponential growth in the Nigerian telecoms industry in the last 12 years has given rise to the evolution of mobile phone from being just a device to support communications requirements but to a smart platform with the capacity to provide a plethora of services hitherto unimagined services.

Speaking on the occasion, Executive Vice Chairman, NCC, Dr Eugene Juwah, said the need to parley with the VASP and MNOs in an enlarged forum has become more imperative in view of the deluge of complaints of unethical practices by WASP, adding however that the objective of the forum is not to witch-hunt but proffer solutions.

Juwah said: “In the recent past, NCC has been inundated with several complaints by the general public with regard to the unethical practices by providers of Value Added Services in Nigeria. These issues range from unauthorised subscription to illegal deduction from subscriber’s accounts.

“Our objective is to present our findings and views on the host of issues identified during our monitoring exercises pursuant to the formulation of an industry-driven regulatory framework on value added services provisions in the country.”

Some of the identifiable services include mobile entertainment, caller-tune, ring-back tunes, music download, news breaks, Biblical and inspirational quotes, flights information, tele-marketing, among others.

But evidence in the system show the operations of ‘data miners’ and network hackers who are threatening the good intentions of mobile VASPs and MNOs that have seen mobile VAS as palliative to the dwindling average revenue per user (ARPU) in the voice services owing to increased competition.

The NCC expressed concerns that most of the operators are operating outside the basic operational guidelines which call for stricter regulatory framework.

Juwah lamented that “some practices and behaviours in the VAS segment which as individual subscribers and as industry regulator have given us a lots of concern.

“We have witnessed high level of tele-marketing, especially unsolicited messages by mobile network operators/value added service operators soliciting for subscription for their services most times constituting nuisance to consumers.”

He said that the Commission deemed it necessary to have an interactive session with the VAS providers, mobile network operators and other critical stakeholders to identify ways of tacking the pressing issues.

The Head of Compliance and Enforcement Department at the NCC, Mr. Efosa Idehen,  said  participatory regulation has become entrenched in their corporate culture, as a means of soliciting industry response to the multi-various industry challenges.

“This is to ensure that whatever policies and regulations we come up with, will enjoy wide acceptance within the industry,” he noted.

 

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