The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has slammed a fine of N127 million on Airtel Nigeria and sanctioned 9mobile for contravening its laws.

According to the Commission’s latest enforcement report, Airtel was reportedly fined N122 million for unilaterally disconnecting Exchange Telecommunications Limited. The regulator said the action contravened the provisions of the Quality of Service (QoS) Regulations 2013 and Enforcement Processes Regulations, 2005, hence the sanction.

Further Details: It was revealed that the mobile network operator was sanctioned for disconnecting another operator from its network without the NCC approval as well as billing subscribers for Value Added Services (VAS) after the latter had activated full Do-Not-Disturb (DND) messages.

As contained in Section 100 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, the excerpt frowns at the disconnection of an operator without the approval of NCC.

The section states: “Notwithstanding the terms and conditions of any interconnection, a party thereto shall not at any time and in any circumstance disconnect or discontinue interconnection to any interconnecting party without the prior written approval of the Commission.”

[READ: Airtel fails to get minimum number of shareholders for NSE-listing]

9mobile roped in: The NCC while monitoring compliance with the Do Not Disturb (DND) directive, discovered that Airtel subscribed 56 numbers that requested full Do Not Disturb messages (DND) to Value Added Services (VAS), thereby contravening the regulatory directive. Also roped in this act was EMTS trading as 9mobile, which was said to have subscribed 13 lines on full DND to VAS.

Although both Airtel Nigeria and 9mobile reportedly claimed to have technical challenges in disconnecting affected numbers, the Commission turned a blind eye to their pleas and immediately slammed them with a fine of N5 million each. This was also contained in their statement.

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Following this discovery and subsequent correspondence with the licensees in which both claimed to have had technical/software challenges and to have disconnected the affected numbers, the Commission rejected their responses and consequently sanctioned both EMTS and Airtel N5,000,000 each for breach of the Direction,” NCC said in its report.

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Due to the high volume of incessant complaints from subscribers over unsolicited text messages and charges for Value Added Services (VAS) not subscribed to, the NCC introduced the 2442 DND (Do Not Disturb) code, which allows subscribers to opt-out of receiving any unsolicited messages.

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12 million subscribers activated the code by the end of last year. However, the regulator said it continued to receive complaints from subscribers who had stopped all forms of unsolicited services.

Based on that, the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, had warned that any mobile network operator found to have contravened the regulation should be fined N5 million per subscriber.

Danbatta said the NCC would probe concerned service providers for any subscriber that continues to receive unsolicited text messages even after they have chosen the Do Not Disturb (DND) option available from their mobile service provider.

This new development means that a subscriber can be refunded for every unsolicited message which can be charged by the operator at the rate of N5 million fine for each subscriber that had been violated. This is after the action can be established by the subscriber.

The introduction of the Do Not Disturb (DND) option is fuelled by the Commission’s determination to put more control in the hands of consumers to determine what they receive on their mobile lines.

How to stop unsolicited messages: The Do Not Disturb (DND) code can be activated fully by sending “STOP” as a text message to 2442, thereby blocking all unsolicited text messages. It can also be activated partially by sending “HELP” as a text message to 2442 to choose from a list of categories of unsolicited messages which the consumer still wants to be receiving.

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