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Telecoms | Regulator brings ‘illegal’ advertising under radar

Telecoms | Regulator brings ‘illegal’ advertising under radar

Telecoms operators will be required to obtain approvals before placing any form of advertisement to the public under planned regulatory oversight by the industry regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).

NCC is tightening the rules on claims that telcos can make to the public as they must obtain NCC approval before airing or placing any form of advertisement in the public domain.

This is one of the key highlights of the Draft Consumer Code of Practice Regulation 2018 by the independent national regulatory authority for the telecoms industry in Nigeria.

Mobile market….Technology Times file photo shows a phone shop at Ikeja Computer Village in Lagos
Mobile market….Technology Times file photo shows a phone shop at Ikeja Computer Village in Lagos

The Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON) regulates advertising practices in Nigeria and has established the Nigerian Code of Advertising Practice. But NCC says operators must comply with the advertising standards established by APCON and rules regarding the advertising or other promotion of telecommunications services set out in this general code.

When the regulation comes into effect, an operator will be required to give written notification to the NCC of all advertisements for goods and services within a minimum of 14 days of the proposed or planned publication of an advertisement.

NCC explains that the guideline is set ”to ensure that such advertisements meet the minimum standards and requirements that may from time to time be set out by the Commission.”

The telecoms industry remains a top spender in Nigeria’s advertising spend with a combined total expenditure of N16.7 billion in 2015 according to a document published by Mediafacts, a media resource for marketing professionals in West and Central Africa.

Meanwhile, according to the proposed NCC rule, for no reason should an operator imitate the slogans or illustrations of another advertiser in such a manner as to mislead the consumer as to the origin or object of the slogan or illustration.

An operator is also expected to ensure that any advertising communication on its platform does not unfairly discredit, disparage or attack other competing products, services, advertisements or companies, or exaggerate the nature or importance of competitive differences of either.

NCC also says that in print media, the price details shall be provided in a clearly legible manner in a minimum type size of 10 points, as measured in Times New Roman font, not narrowed, in direct connection with the call number. In the case of a poster or anything of a similar nature, the minimum font size shall be correspondingly larger.

In another section, the NCC draft regulation also stipulate that a mobile subscriber may be tempted to accumulate bills with one service provider for services used, then port to another service provider without settling payment with the previous service provider.

Mobile number portability (MNP) is a service that allows a mobile phone or smartphone customer to change telecoms carrier and keep the same phone number.

In order to prevent abuse of the porting process, consumers shall be required to settle any valid bill/invoice before porting to another service provider.

In a similar vein if a consumer ports without settling outstanding bills with a previous service provider, the service provider may recover this debt through any legal means.

The Nigerian telecoms industry accounts for a huge customer base with active lines totalling 144,631,678 in Q4 2017 according to official market information by the telecoms market regulator, NCC.

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Kolade Akinola Technology Journalist at Technology Times Mobile: + 234 (0) 807 401 6027