Telecom subscribers in Nigerian may now heave a sigh of relief over the challenges of unsolicited text messages as  the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has declared that telecom firms in the country may pay over N16 billion in fines annually to subscribers as compensation for sending unsolicited SMS or  calls to them.

Prof. Umar Danbatta, executive vice chairman of NCC, stated this during the World Consumer Right Day (WCRD) 2017 in Abuja, stressing that any telecom firm that breaches the rules of ‘Do Not Disturb’ (DND) operations by way of sending unsolicited messages or calls to subscribers stands the risk of being fined to the tune of N5 million per incidence and such compensation goes to the affected subscriber.

Danbatta clarified that before the breach could be established to enable the commission sanction any telecom operator, a subscriber must have sent a message, ‘STOP’, to a short code ‘2442’ to opt out of the service.

“If the messages keep coming into your phone, send a message of complaint to NCC to a short code ‘622’ or call the short code.

If that continues, necessary sanction will be undertaken,” Danbatta said.

He further explained that there is the need to enlighten Nigerians of their rights on the use of the ‘622’ short code across the 774 local government areas of the country.

“The commission will assess the outcome of the campaign to know the necessary steps to take if the campaign is completed,” he said.

Danbatta informed the people that Nigerian telecom consumers spent a whopping $5.6 billion on telecom services in 2015, while the figure topped in 2016 by another $1 billion to make it $6.6 billion.

He said 2017 is dedicated to the Nigerian Telecom Consumer, which is aimed at protecting consumers and ensuring that consumers are not taken for granted for patronage.

Delivering his address at the flag-off of the NCC 2017 Year of the Consumer during the WCRD, Adebayo Shittu, minister of Communications Technology, said the ministry is formulating cogent policies, frameworks and guidelines on protecting ICT consumers, especially in telecommunications.

“Nigeria has established itself as one of the fastest growing mobile cellular markets in the world.

“The normal anticipated consumer data base should be hosting about 450 million records of users, if each customer joins at least two network vendors with each having at least a single SIM card. However, some consumers have two or more SIM cards/lines due to network coverage challenges.

“Billions of dollars have been invested in the Nigerian telecoms market since the inception of the GSM in 2001; operators have committed to invest even more in the near future. Because of this development and since Nigeria is the most populous nation in Africa, access to the internet has to improve significantly to realise the objective of a ‘Better Digital World’.

“Research shows that by 2020, about 52 percent of the world population will be online. About 72 percent of the people don’t know what information companies collect about them online and what purposes,” the minister stated.

The minister explained that despite all the challenges such as drop calls, rise in consumer base, delays in hooking up calls, network coverage among others, government is working on policies and effective strategies to improve on those challenges.

“Government is also working to create digital awareness with the objective of increasing the capacity, confidence and trust Nigerians have in the digital world,” he added.

The creation of the 8-point agenda in the sector by the commission, he said was to facilitate broadband penetration, improve quality service, protecting and empowering the consumers which are core drivers of the NCC Year of the Consumer Initiative.

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