Value Added Services providers in Nigeria are coming under fresh regulatory scrutiny under a government plan unveiled by the telecoms industry watchdog.
The Nigerian Communications Commission that regulates the telecoms industry, has unveiled a new guideline for VAS services by telecoms network operators in Nigeria, which is expected to bring the service segment under closer scrutiny by the regulator as it is approaching “maturity” in Nigeria.
The broad regulatory scrutiny on VAS services is contained in a Consultation Paper on Procedures and Guidelines for the Provision of Value Added Services in Nigeria released by NCC and signed by Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman at the nation’s telecoms watchdog agency.
The document segmented the VAS market into three key segments that include VAS Developers; VAS Hosting Service providers and Network Operators. It stipulates that while multiple players will be allowed to operate in each segment of the market to ensure adequate competition, companies operating in one segment may be barred from operating in other segments of the market, if it will erode competition.[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”right” bgcolor=”#” color=”#” bcolor=”#” arrow=”yes”]The NCC Consultation document says that, “the Commission has received several complaints from the public in respect of service providers who use short codes assigned for Value Added Services to perpetuate fraud, the menace of unsolicited text messages that flood customers’ phones, fake bank credit alerts, anti-competitive activities etc.”[/quote]
According to NCC, the classes of services recognised as VAS in Nigeria include Information services/Content such as news, updates, data, quiz, games, ringtones, video streaming, alerts, product information, call centre and database access.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Commission further outlined some features and functionalities which are already embedded in digital switches of network operators which the watchdog says will not qualify as VAS. These include call barring, call diverts, call transfer, caller ID, conference calls, IDD, missed call alert, SIM Backup, speed dial, voice mail, among others. Such services shall not qualify for common short code allocation, NCC says.
The NCC Consultation document says that, “the Commission has received several complaints from the public in respect of service providers who use short codes assigned for Value Added Services to perpetuate fraud, the menace of unsolicited text messages that flood customers’ phones, fake bank credit alerts, anti-competitive activities etc.”
According to the regulator, “Consequent upon the above developments and the fact that the Value Added Services (VAS) industry is beginning to approach maturity, the Commission is of the opinion that it is time to regulate the industry in order to protect, balance and reconcile stakeholders’ interests.”
The document warns that all companies involved in VAS provisioning must ensure that information content and applications being offered to the public are free of default, bugs and inaccuracies.
The VAS developer and Hosting Service Provider will be jointly held responsible for any faulty or inaccurate VAS offered to the public and may be compelled to refund buyers if a clear case of negligence is established, the telecoms regulator says.