*The best way to protect subscribers is to educate them to make informed choices but telecoms operators’ service plans come with no options
The best way to protect mobile subscribers is to educate them but Telecoms operators are not doing enough to assist phone users make informed choices, according to stakeholders during the 78th Telecoms Consumer Parliament (TCP) organized by Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in Lagos.
Subscribers said this year’s theme: “Regulatory Responses to Consumer issues over the last one year – A Retrospect” is fitting because operators have gone off course in terms of sincerity as most of their service packages is aimed at cheating subscribers.
A phone user who chose to remain anonymous told IT NEWS NIGERIA that on one service plan, MTN gives him 200% on every recharge but the credit disappears afterwards.
“When I recharge N1000 they give me N2000. That amount disappears from my phone after few minutes calls.”
“when I called them they told me I have used it because I subscribe to internet with my N1000.”
In fact each phone user seems to have bad experiences with one telecoms service provider or another but NCC said its priority is to have a stabilized telecoms industry that will efficiently provide good quality of service to consumers.
IT NEWS NIGERIA also gathered at the Thursday event that service providers had done little to create awareness and as a result there is widespread cheating as complained by consumers present. Telecoms products do not come with clear options that enable mobile users opt out of service plan.
Again, phone owners spend over 30 minutes to access customer care centre as against 5 minutes required by NCC for a customers to access IVR and speak to customers care agent but that is being flouted by operators. Interactive voice response or IVR is a technology that allows a computer to interact with humans through the use of voice and tones input via keypad.
Furthermore, operators were required to set up care centres in each state capital and next biggest town or city in the each state to enable mobile owners resolve problems but today operators have not complied.
According to NCC, awareness is not being created enough as telecoms operators have refused to educate consumers to make informed choices with regard to their service plans.
Speaking at the event, Executive Vice-Chairman/CEO, NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta said the TCP is a platform where stakeholders are engaged in an interactive session. It provides a unique opportunity for Consumers of telecom services to be informed and educated on burning issues in the industry and to freely express their views and expectations in the presence of the Service Providers and the Regulator.
Danbatta, who was represented by NCC’s Executive Commissioner, Technical standards, Ubale Maska, said this is in fulfillment of NCC mandate as prescribed by the Nigerian Communication Act 2003, while taking cognizance of the challenges that came along with rapid growth of the industry, has consistently strived to ensure that Nigerians have access to quality telecommunications services at affordable prices.
According to him, the industry’s challenges over the years have been that of provision of acceptable quality of service on a consistent basis, adding that “non-technical factors, which conspire to degrade the quality of service are erratic power supply, vandalisation of telecom infrastructure, multiple taxation and right of way issues as well as security challenge at mobile base stations, among others.’
He noted that the apex regulator is making good progress to address quality of service, multiple taxation and right of way issues, and vandalization.
“Through the Quality of Service Fixing Project, Industry stakeholders meet regularly to review issues of quality of service and how to overcome them. In addition, to the QoS Regulation, the Commission has also deployed the QoS Infrastructure Tool to proactively manage QoS issues by using the Consumers Quality of Experience as a baseline.”
As requards Multiple Taxation and Right of Way, Dambatta said “to resolve these challenges, we have adopted a pragmatic approach, and one of the platforms used by the Commission is the engagement of the Governors forum through outreaches. Ogun State Governor, His Excellency, Ibikunle Amosun recently ordered for the unsealing of 47 base stations hitherto under lock and key before my visit to the state.”
“To curtail the problem of vandalism, the Commission is tirelessly working to ensure the passage of the critical infrastructure bill at the National Assembly so that telecoms infrastructure will be declared as National assets.
Notwithstanding these challenges, the Commission has remained resolute and committed to providing Regulatory interventions that ensure Network Operators adhere to the conditions of their licences and consumers get the best of quality of experience.”
Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau at NCC, Abdullahi Maikano said earlier during his opening remarks
that Telecom Consumer Parliament has continued to be relevant to the Nigeria’s telecom industry. To date, the TCP remain the only forum that bring together regulator, the telecom operating companies and consumers together under one roof to discuss and proffer solutions to common issues.
TCP has continued to shape the regulatory policies of the Commission and have led to the enactment of several regulations that benefited consumers and enriched the industry.