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News : Stop those Unsolicited SMS so Subscribers Can Breathe Easy
Abuja, Nigeria, Aug 8, 2016 -- The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), in a bid to stop the menace and harassment of unsolicited text messages and calls by telecom operators to consumers, recently directed telecom operators to activate the ‘Do Not Disturb’ facility, which gives subscribers the freedom to choose what messages they receive from the various networks.
It also mandated the operators to dedicate a common short code (2442), which would enable subscribers to take informed decisions.
According to the Director of Public Affairs of NCC, Mr. Tony Ojobo, the action, a direct regulatory response to their yearnings, was taken in order to protect subscribers from the pains of unsolicited text messages.
"Taking cognizance of the broad range of services, which include banking, insurance, financial products, real estate, education and health, the commission directed the operators to give the necessary instructions and clarifications that will enable subscribers to subscribe to a particular service or none at all," Ojobo said. "In fact, a full DND, which is the SMS ‘STOP’ to 2442, does not allow the subscriber to receive any unsolicited message from the operators at all."
He, however, clarified that the decision of the commission would not affect personal messages, or person-to-person messages.
He also urged the operators to comply with the directive issued by the commission and never again harass subscribers with unwanted messages.
The commission also invoked a regulatory provision, which had hitherto been overlooked by the operators A document from the Legal and Regulatory Services Department of the Commission, which The AUTHORITY obtained, indicates that failure by any of the operators to comply with the new directive, with effect from July 1, 2016, would attract a fine of N5m, with additional N500, 000 per day, for as long as the contravention persists.
"The commission has been inundated with complaints from subscribers about the menace of unsolicited text messages and calls from Mobile Network Operators (MNO), which has impacted negatively on consumer quality experience in the telecom industry," the NCC spokesman stressed. "The Commission through its monitoring activities confirmed that though some MNOs have set up the ‘Do Not Call’ facility on their network, the awareness of its availability by subscribers and how to opt into the facility is very minimal and unsatisfactory."
He added: "The Commission in line with its regulatory functions of protecting the interest of consumers as provided in sections 4(1) (b) and 105(1) of the Nigerian Communications Act, NCA, 2003 and ensuring the development of the Nigerian Communications industry is of the opinion that degradation of consumer quality experience through unsolicited telemarketing should be curtailed."
The telecom regulator thus mandated telecom operators to create for their subscribers sufficient awareness of the existence of ‘Do Not Disturb’ service on their networks on or before June 30th, 2016 and that the opt-in process shall be free of charge and if contravened attract a fine.
"Failure to comply with this direction will result in the imposition of sanction in the amount of N5,000,000.00 (Five Million Naira) and a further sum of N500,000.00 (Five Hundred Thousand Naira Only) per day as long as the contravention persists", the document stated.
The ‘Do Not Disturb’ facility gives subscribers the freedom to choose what messages to receive from the various networks and the options include:
"SMS STOP to 2442 to stop all SMS
SMS ALLOW to 2442 to receive all SMS,
SMS 1" for receiving SMS relating to Banking? Insurance/ Financial products to 2442,
"SMS 2" for receiving |SMS relating to real Estate to 2442,
"SMS 3" for receiving SMS relating to Education to 2442,
"SMS 4" for receiving SMS relating to Health to 2442,
"SMS 5" for receiving SMS relating to Consumer goods and Automobiles to 2442",
"SMS 6" for receiving SMS relating to Communication/ Broadcasting Entertainment/IT to 2442,
"SMS 7" for receiving SMS relating to Tourism and leisure to 2442,
"SMS 8" for receiving SMS relating to Sports to 2442,
"SMS 9" for receiving SMS relating to Religion to 2442", the commission as well as the network providers explained.
Mr Ojobo, in a bid to ensure that telecom subscribers get well briefed on how to end this incessant harassment from telecom operators has explored all conventional avenues, mainstream and also the social media to educate consumers on how to go about it and also asked them to report any infractions to NCC.
This, indeed, is a step in the right direction, a testimony to NCC’s fair, firm and forthright principles in ensuring consumer satisfaction and creation of enabling environment for efficient and qualitative telecommunications services in the country. Little wonder, then, that NCC’s regulatory expertise has given it global recognition as a top-rate regulatory organization.
Posted by Veronica Silva Cusi, news correspondent
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Telecoms Industry Regulator
Published: Wednesday, August 10, 2016