In a move that will give succor to telecoms subscribers battling with poor quality of service delivery, the federal Ministry of Communication Technology and the Consumer Protection of Nigeria are collaborating to sanction or prosecute erring telecoms operators that have been delivering poor quality service to Nigerians.
According to Efem Akanga, special assistant (media) to the Minister of Communication Technology, the partnership is in furtherance of the efforts of the ministry aimed at providing an enabling environment for the deployment of ICT infrastructure e.g. base stations and fibre optic cable, the poor quality of service still subsists.
“The plight of telecoms subscribers who continue to bear the brunt of poor QoS paved the way for the collaboration between the Ministry, NCC and the CPC to work together to deliver appropriate customer redress by telecoms subscribers which will include, but not limited to rebate on airtime, usage irregularities, inaccurate billing and opportunities to opt out of unsolicited SMS messages,” she said in a statement.
Subscribers are daily faced with poor network service delivery that makes it impossible for consumers to receive calls, drop calls and lack of sustainability of calls, unsolicited text messages at odd hours, unsolicited telemarketing calls, deceptive broadband speed adverts by some service providers and failure of service delivery, without compensation to consumers. Others are insufficient customer care lines, unrelenting sales promotion, despite poor network service delivery, non-compensation to consumers for loss of airtime and poor service delivery, network insecurities characterized by uncontrollable interruptions on networks by unidentifiable third parties.
Operators have in the last few years listed challenges confronting and limiting their ability to deliver effective quality service as multiple regulation and taxation, Illegal access denials and site shut-outs, inadequate power supply, lack of incentives to drive service penetration to the remote and rural areas, rent seeking charges for permits and approvals necessary for deployment, security etc.
To tackle quality of service issues in the industry, the Ministry in partnership with the Ministry of Works developed new Right of Way RoW guidelines for Federal Government roads to enable operators have unencumbered means of laying fibre optics which is critical for infrastructure development and quality of service. To remove arbitrary charges and eradicate multiple taxations that impede telecoms development across the nation, the Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs Johnson for the first time in the history of Nigeria’s telecoms revolution got state governors and relevant authorities at the state and federal level to address the issue of multiple taxation and adopt measures that will remove arbitrary charges and eradicate multiple taxations to enhance service delivery across the nation.
At a closed door meeting with Governor Fashola last week, the Ministry facilitated a landmark agreement to remove constraints to the installation, rollout and deployment of base stations and fibre optic cable in the state. Lagos State at the meeting agreed to reduce taxes, and levies in Lagos by over 40% and Right of Way Fees were reduced from N3000 to N500-reduction of over 85%.
Reiterating that the Federal Government will no longer condone poor service delivery to subscribers, Mrs Johnson reiterated that henceforth, it’s no longer business as usual, and operators must rise up to redress the current poor state of quality service delivery. ‘We are concerned the poor quality issues still abound. I am inundated with complaints about quality of service and the seemingly uncaring attitude of our telecoms operators to resolve these issues on a regular basis. We will continue, thriugh the industry regulator to apply sanctions when operators fail to meet the required standards in terms of service quality breaches. However, consumers cannot continue to bear the burden of poor service delivery. Though we are mindful that the operators are facing issues in deploying or maintaining infrastructure, we believe that operators can do better in delivering acceptable quality of service which they are clearly not doing’’
Mrs Atoki in her comments stressed that ‘’ the challenge of doing business in Nigeria is the usual justification for these violations by service providers. However, as far as CPC is concerned, as long as a business is in operation, and consumers pay for the service or product, Nigerian consumers must get value for their money’’ She added that ‘’under the Consumer Protection Council’s Act, CPC has the power to sanction, prosecute and compel any product or service provider, to answer a lawful inquiry, disobedience of which are all criminalized.
In addition these operators according to Atoki risk prosecution and jail terms of up to five years if investigations currently on-going reveal that they have deliberately short-changed Nigerians in poor service delivery. CPC can make orders in the interest, and protection of consumers and disobedience is also criminalized by law. While NCC can impose fines on an offending operator, CPC can in addition commit such recalcitrant offenders to jail terms for contravening any consumer protection enactment’’.