Nigerian telecoms operators may be in for another round of sanctions from the country's telecoms umpire, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) if found culpable for cases of data depletion and illegal deductions being complained by telecom subscribers.

BizTech Africa, reliably gathered that, while imposition of sanctions on operators by the telecoms regulator is often the last resort in its regulatory actions to whip operators into line, the Commission has already instituted a forensic audit of cases of data depletion and wrong billing/deductions on mobile networks. 

Data depletion has a negative connotation with respect to data usage or consumption by a consumer on his or her phone that is connected to a mobile network.

The term presupposes that a telecoms consumer experiences early, faster, sharp and suspicious depletion on his or her subscribed data compared to what he or she naturally believes should be a moderate reduction in data bundle as a result of usage on his or her device.

"We have instituted and we have insisted that despite the fall in data price, that forensic audit must go on and must be concluded and the outcome communicated to the CEOs of telecom companies”, confirmed the Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta.

He said the commission plans to get to the bottom of why consumers are experiencing data depletion and possibility of compensating them for wrong deductions, which may arise from short message service (SMS).

Danbatta, who is currently on a second term in office as the country's chief telecom regulator, threatened that "Telco’s would be made to comply with whatever directions are given after the forensic audit", adding that the NCC embarked on the forensic investigation in order to ensure maximum protection for telecom consumers from being shortchanged by their service providers. 

While cases of data depletion became more prevalent with the outbreak of Coronavirus pandemic, as people increasingly relied on data for activities they otherwise would have carried out physically, BizTech Africa , however, gathered that consumers might also be responsible for data depletion on their mobile devices.

Causes of data depletion or deduction of consumers’ credit

Data depletion is mostly caused by the consumers because of inadequate knowledge on data use which often results in faster depletion of their subscribed Internet bundles. 

Other factors that may be responsible for faster data depletion on a subscriber's phone includes automatic updates of operating systems and applications on unknown to the consumers, non-closure of running applications, the generation of network in use, as  latest generation of networks such as 3G, 4G and 4G tend to runs faster, with higher data consumption.

While consumers will get better service experience by consuming data services with newer technologies, their data consumption will, however, be faster and higher, the NCC document obtained from its Consumer Portal reveals. 

Ways of reducing early data depletion or deduction of consumers’ credit

According to NCC, “Update app over Wi-fi connection only. Disable mobile data and close apps when not in use. Delete unused apps as they might be running despite not in use. Limit the use of data-hungry apps like Facebook, Instagram. Disable auto download especially for WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter apps.

“Turn off automatic updates for apps on mobile devices. Use Wi-fi connection when possible to send videos, pictures and big files to minimize data consumption. Cache Google maps for offline use. Keep an eye on your apps and monitor time spent on social media. Be mindful of the websites you visit. The more the pictures, videos or graphics on the site, the more data is consumed."

Meanwhile, Danbatta has stressed the commitment of NCC to the protection and empowerment of telecom consumers using the over 208 million active telephone lines in the country.

"consumers remain critical stakeholders in the Nigerian telecommunications sector and so must be adequately protected to ensure sustainability,” he said.

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