When NCC Takes Consumer Conversation To Benue
By Nkechi Isaac, Abuja
Telecommunication consumers were taken by surprise when the nation’s telecommunication regulatory body, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) came out in the beginning of the year with its year’s focus, declaring 2017 as “The Year of the Nigerian Telecom Consumer.” Most regulatory bodies have the characteristics of being aloof, carrying out their regulatory functions without really identifying with those they are supposed to be protecting.
The announcement by the NCC on March 15, 2017 was the first of its kind; it was the first time a regulatory body would come up with such mission, the first a government agency would openly take a stand with the masses and fight for their right. As is expected, the commission’s announcement got some consumers suspicious, confused and sceptical.
However, four months after the announcement, telecommunication consumers throughout the nation are beginning to understand the commission’s mission which is backed by massive engagement, enlightenment and sensitisation of consumers’ rights and benefits.
Welcoming consumers at one of such enlightenment fora, the third edition of the consumer conversation within the North Central geopolitical zone at Makurdi, Benue State, the NCC’s head of zonal operations, Helen Obi, said the event was staged as a recognition of the place and importance of the consumer in the telecommunications industry in Nigeria, pointing out that the commission’s ‘year of the telecom consumer’ as declared by its executive vice chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta, aimed at educating, protecting and empowering telecom consumers.
She said; “As you are aware, the event aims at recognising the place and importance of the consumer in the telecommunications industry in Nigeria bearing in mind that the consumer plays a crucial role in the growth and development of the sector.”
She explained that the declaration of the ‘year of the telecom consumer’ was also in tandem with the eight point agenda of the commission to ensure consumer empowerment and education.
Obi who was represented by the principal manager, zonal operations department, Mr Ekisola Oladisun, said the commission identified four key component issues to further drive the success of the year’s agenda.
The components identified, according to her, include the Do Not Disturb (DND) services; the NCC toll free line; improving Quality of Service and Electromagnetic Fields (EMF) radiation.
Highlighting on these components, she said; “Activation of the ‘Do Not Disturb’ (DND) service across all telecom networks – This service enables the consumer to stop receiving unwanted and unsolicited messages from telecom operators. A consumer is expected to send “STOP“ to 2442, if he/she intends to stop receiving all forms of text messages and to send HELP to 2442 to be availed with all the options on areas which the subscriber may wish to receive text messages.”
The NCC toll free line 622 enables consumers to report complaints pertaining to unresolved issues with their service providers, she added.
Speaking on the QoS, Obi said the commission had put in place some Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) which help the regulator to rate performance of the telecom operators, adding the commission also has stringent sanctions for failing to meet KPIs.
“In its determination to ensure that the consumer experiences improved quality of service the commission is implementing measures to ensure drop call rate reduces and meets its industry benchmark of less than one per cent (1% DCR) target. The commission is closely monitoring, tracking and reviewing the key performance indicators (KPIs) of operators by the Network Integrity and Technical Standards Department. Greater effort is also put in place for compliance monitoring and enforcement of set standards,” she stated.
Speaking on the electromagnetic fields (EMF) radiation, Obi further enlightened consumers about the environmental impact of telecom masts, saying there is no negative health implication associated with telecommunication masts.
Earlier, the chairman of Makurdi Local Government Council, Mrs Dorothy Igbudu, represented by Dorcas Songu, lauded NCC’s initiative of hosting regional consumer conversations, saying the forum presented an avenue for interactions between the commission and the consumers.
According to her, “This forum will be beneficial to our people because of recent we’ve been noticing unsolicited messages, at times if you recharge your card there are some things in the network you didn’t even ascribe to but the telecom services will just cut your money and it is very difficult this period. So, we’re very happy with your presence here to educate our people on their rights, and educate them on how to handle telecom related challenges. ”
Some of the issues raised by consumers during the forum include unsolicited SMS and calls from network providers; hidden charges; unclear promo terms; over payment of money via the borrow me money platform; fraudulent calls by unknown numbers amongst others.