Unsolicited Messages: NCC Issues New Directive To Network Operators

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has directed all network operators to create a database for phone numbers of subscribers on the Do-Not-Disturb list. The regulator said operators and aggregators should ensure that no adverts were sent to the telephone numbers on the database.

This directive was contained in the newly released ‘Value Added Services Aggregator Framework,’ showing guidelines aimed at regulating the provision of value added services in the Nigeria’s telecommunications industry. It also said that stakeholders would be given six months transition period to implement the provisions in the guidelines. The commission also said operators and content service providers were free to create opt-in database for registration of telephone numbers of subscribers who were not opposed to advertisements.

The directive ordered, “Operators are to establish a central database into which subscribers can deposit/register their phone number for the purpose of preventing the reception of any form of advertisement. Operators and aggregators are to ensure that no adverts are sent to any telephone number on the database,” the NCC said.

In line with the VAS Framework, the commission said that network operators were obliged to protect subscribers from unwanted and unauthorised value added services. The NCC also directed that the prepaid accounts of subscribers for voice and the SMS services should be separated from that of data and VAS. The commission stated that on no account should network operators deduct money from a customer’s voice/SMS account to pay for a value added service or use credit balance from data/VAS account to pay for voice/SMS service.

It added that operators or aggregator were not allowed to debit a customer’s VAS account to pay for a value added service without a verifiable request from the subscriber. The NCC said that content and applications service providers with VAS licences would be allowed to pool, host and distribute content and applications using their own in-house software and hardware platforms while those without licence would be required to stop operations.

It added, “Those offering services that they are not licensed must wind down within this period. Application for new licences, setting up subsidiaries, installing new infrastructure, technical and procedural alignment of access will also take place during this transition period.” here had been complaints from members of the public regarding unsolicited text messages, fake bank credit alerts and anti-competitive activities in the industry.
In second quarter of 2017, the Consumer Affairs Bureau of the commission received a total of 15,377 complaints across its various channels such as 622 toll free line, written-hard copies, consumer web portal as well as its social media handles. Billing-related complaints accounted for about 58 per cent of the complaints received by the commission with deductions from consumers’ accounts for activations of unsolicited Value Added Services and Service Providers’ promotions constituting about 80 per cent of the billing-related complaints.

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