Written by Sarah NEGEDU

Forced subscription: culpable telecoms to face sanctions

Telecommunication companies found guilty of making illegal deductions from their subscribers’ accounts will soon face the full weight of the law, as the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, said it will soon be imposing sanctions on such companies.

The Abuja Inquirer had recently reported that approximately N36billion was illegally deducted from subscribers’ accounts by mobile operators between 2016 and 2018 alone.

Investigations by the NCC shows that the amount was illegally deducted through forced subscriptions to Value Added Services that subscribers did not willingly opt for.

The NCC’s Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Mr. Sunday Dare, told the media that the discovery was made from the investigation covering the period between 2016 and 2018.

He said, “The NCC carried out an investigation between 2016 and 2018 which revealed that telecoms consumers have been deducted billions of naira through forceful subscriptions, illegal and unauthorised deductions by Mobile Network Operators and Value Added Service Providers.”

A statement from the regulator said that it is set to order mobile operators to refund the monies illegally deducted from subscribers.

The commission said it had persistently insisted that actions such as forceful subscriptions and illegal deductions were unacceptable as they were in direct breach of the Nigerian Communications Act.

It said, “Based on the outcome of the investigative audit, the commission will shortly be directing the indicted organisations to make refunds to affected consumers as appropriate. The commission is also considering and will impose appropriate sanctions as necessary. This outcome justifies the commission’s commitment to evidence-based interventions.”

NCC explained that following high level of consumer complaints in respect of forceful subscriptions to Value-Added Services as well as airtime deductions for these subscriptions, the commission mandated several initiatives to tackle the menace.

“Disturbed by the persistent occurrence of the menace despite these measures, the commission carried out a long and comprehensive investigative audit into VAS subscriptions across all Mobile Network Operators and VAS platforms.”

It added “The audit team analysed subscribers’ Call Detail Records from MNOs and subscription logs from VAS providers over a period of two years, leading to the conclusion that a huge percentage of VAS services were not voluntarily subscribed for.

“The audit team also found that some providers had implemented disingenuous mechanisms by which a large number of innocent consumers were forcefully subscribed to VAS platforms, leading to regular deduction of their airtime without their consent.”

 

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