The Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) went on the offensive again to try and deal with a problem that is proving intractable to them: unsolicited calls and messages to subscribers.
Unsolicited calls and messages from networks and from third parties working together with these network providers became so rampart it could be termed harassment.
Apart from harassing subscribers with these calls and messages, million of subscribers were also extorted by networks as they were forcefully made to pay for services they did not subscribe to.
The Do Not Disturb (DND) code was introduced about 5 months ago to address this issue. All a subscriber needed to do was to opt in to full DND and these text and calls would stop disturbing them.
But like with all things Nigeria, it only worked perfectly in theory. First of all, the network providers refused to give the DND service adequate publicity. Secondly, even for those who managed to opt into the service, these unwanted calls and texts still managed to come in.
For some subscribers, they had to cancel the DND because subscribing to it also affected some important texts like bank credit alerts.
The current offensive by the NCC is meant to address this issue and to enforced full compliance of the DND service.
The press release by the Director of Public Affairs, Tony Ojobo, made it very clear what the commission expected from the service providers.
His statement was explicit that any text message or call from networks not related to
1. information on security issues like national security and emergencies,
2. important network-related messages (for instance to inform customers about shut down of network at certaib times), and
3. notifications related to credit/data bakance
Would be regarded as a violation of the DND agreement.
The statement also asked the network providers to ensure that subscribers are properly informed about the DND service. And they should to this regularly by sending notification to a customer after the customer had sent a text message or made a call.
Basically, information about the DND service should be part of the message anytime a notification is sent a notification about custimers’ credit balance or data balance.
The NCC gave the networks one week from the 14th (yesterday) to comply or face stiff sanctions.
For the network providers, the count down has started. Would they comply or not? Are they going to find excuses not implement this new order the way Nigerians think it should be implemented?
For subscribers though, that warning and ultimatum is a bit too late. Some had already found new ways to escape the irritant of unsolicited calls and text messages.
One way is to use excellent softwares like the ones reviewed here to block these calls and messages.
For some others though, they chosed to go through the courts to enforce their right to privacy. For instance, two weeks ago, a high court in Abuja, ordered one of the telecoms firms, Airtel, to pay a fine of N5 million to Emmaniel Anene over the same issue of unwanted calls and text messages.
And just the three days ago, retired Colonel in the Nigerian Army and a former Military Administrator of Kaduna State, dragged the biggest telecoms firm, MTN, to court over this unsolicited calls and messages.
According to him, through these unsolicited text messages, The company had been deducting money from his credit balance for services he knew nothing about or even subscribed to in the first place.
It is very likely that if these networks continue to behave like this because of the helplessness of the NCC, more people would tow the path of litigation. I am sure the Judges would be sympathetic to complainants because they (judges) also suffer from these harassment.
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