Telecoms: Consumer agency mulls ‘full-scale investigation’ of Nigerian operators over service quality
Mrs Dupe Atoki, Director General of the Consumer Protection Council (CPC) says challenges faced by telecoms companies (telcos) does not justify poor service quality provided Nigerian subscribers ahead of a “full-scale investigation” by the agency.
Atoki said this when she paid a courtesy visit to the office of the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Professor Umar Danbatta to intimate the NCC’s boss of her organization’s ” imminent full-scale investigation into the telecom sector.”
The CPC DG says it was wrong for telecoms operators to hide under the often-stated challenges of the operating environment to short-change Nigerian consumers.
“We are not unmindful of the challenges that operators put out as being responsible for poor service, some of which are vandalisation of equipment, double taxation or even cost of laying cables”, she says.[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”right” bgcolor=”#” color=”#” bcolor=”#” arrow=”yes”]According to the consumer agency’s chief, “but for us, our concern is that, if we pay for these services, as long as you are in business and declaring profit, it is not in the interest of consumers to be faced with poor quality of service.[/quote]
According to the consumer agency’s chief, “but for us, our concern is that, if we pay for these services, as long as you are in business and declaring profit, it is not in the interest of consumers to be faced with poor quality of service.
If the challenges in the operating system environment still enable the operators to be in business and to make profit, then they are not fundamental enough to justify poor quality”, she adds.
She further asserted that a compensation policy should be put in place, where a consumer that has been short-changed for 10 seconds gets his/her money back, saying that “if that can be cumulative, in a month, or in a quarter, that amount of money that has consistently being short-changed can be calculated and re-emitted to the consumer whether at the equivalent in cash or in airtime.”
The Council’s Director while narrating the ordeals of consumers in the sector, identified poor quality of service, particularly high rate of drop calls; unsolicited text messages, even at odd hours, and unauthorized conscription of consumers into some telecom services or packages, especially caller tunes, without easy opting out options, as concerns demanding immediate regulatory attention.
She also mentioned other concerns of the council to include disruption of internet service without prior notice to consumers; lack of compensation for down times, unfavorable data roll-over terms, non-provision of detailed billing information on used data; unfavorable customer care centers, ineffective customer care lines, and non-transparent sales promotion terms and conditions.
The CPC boss who noted that a strengthened relationship would enhance the protection of telecom subscribers in the country, stressed that despite NCC directives on unsolicited SMS, operators still indulged in the practice of sending these messages at odd hours, thereby infringing on the rights of individuals for a decent rest.
Prof. Umaru Danbata, Executive Vice Chairman at NCC, in his response called for collaboration between the two agencies, noting that ”it is through that way that the interest of consumers, which the both agencies were protecting, could be effectively actualised.”
He suggested the formation of a joint committee which would look into some of the issues of common interest, particularly the review of the existing Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the two organizations, which the CPC boss agreed to.
The NCC boss thereafter explained that the poor telecom service being experienced by subscribers were due to two major factors, which he described as technical and non-technical.
While NCC has the expertise to address the technical issues, the non-technical issues which are down to paucity of supporting infrastructure, can only be addressed by the three tiers of government, Danbatta says.
Addressing CPC plans to beam its searchlight on the telecom sector, he cautioned the Council to exercise some restraint in embarking on such an assignment, stressing that only the NCC could determine parameters for dropped calls.
“You spoke about dropped calls; I think the parameters that characterise quality of service are divided into two. One is made of technical parameters which only NCC has the capacity to measure, appraise and give directive to operators to improve in the event these parameters fall below stipulated level. I hardly don’t see any role CPC can play in the determination of these parameters”. Danbata adds.
He further said; “You have touched on very important subject that the commission is striving very hard to ensure improvement on and that is the quality of service. In wanting to conduct your investigation, you will seriously be handicapped because of the way we measure quality of service here”.
Danbatta says that “this is one of the regulatory things we do and we have established expertise doing this over the years to the extent that regulators over the continent of Africa come here in order to bring to bear the best practice that we have here in regulating their own sector”.