Rahaman Onike: The Burden Of Unsolicited SMS/Calls

This  is a commentary which intends to bring into focus the  burden associated with illegal deductions from subscribers’ airtime by telecommunication operators.The consequences of the menace  on average Nigerians  is beyond imagination depending on rates of subscription.On daily basis,the subscribers are not only made to pay for unsolicited services ,  customers’ consent   are obtained by fraudulent means thereby inflicting pains and untold hardship on the citizens. The  investors in telecommunication business appeared to be suffering from  ‘quick  money syndrome’.This has obviously become our way of life as a people.Somebody needs to remind telecommunication  operators that  exploitation does’nt guarantee economic prosperity. With the recent happenings in the telecommunication  industry,it will be  justified that government should halt the trend now.The unsolicited SMS comes in the form of caller tones,games, quotations, health hints,sport news etc.We are all   victims of the exploitation by the service providers. Worse still,people that can neither read nor write are not exempted from the unauthorized deductions from customers’ airtime on daily basis.

            What this implies is that customers’ rights are  not adequately protected by the extant regulations with this uncontrollable exploitation by the service providers. When  customers are debited for  unsolicited  sms and calls,the victims are often  subjected to  serious financial burden in the process.In economic terms,every amount illegally deducted from users’ account counts on future purchasing power of the victims no matter how small the deducted sum might be.

            Even with the persistent public outcry against the menace since the debut of Global Satellite Mobil System (GSM), the telecommunication operators appeared to be less concerned and adamant.It has reached a stage where people would be ready to match to the streets in protest,If that is what will put a stop to the atrocious  acts of the service providers.

            As June 30 deadline issued to the service providers draws nearer, nothing suggests the readiness to  put a stop to the barrage of unsolicited text messages (sms) and calls by this thieving telecom operators in the country.Virtually all the existing service providers are guilty.Without an exemption, they have all added to our pains and agonies as a nation.

            Being a victim of this orchestrated exploitation by the service providers, I am not just concerned but waiting  eagerly for the expiration of the deadline. As we count down, people look forward  to see what the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) will do.

            The body language of the regulatory authority could best be described as a metaphor of toothless bull dog until contrary  is proved after the expiration of the deadline.It is difficult to trust the Nigerian Telecommunication Commission (NCC) having failed several times to curtail the excesses and exploitative ttendencies of the service providers.

            With the current trend, illegal deductions from airtime of customers through unsolicited sms and calls need serious sanction by the regulatory commission as a necessary reprieve.

            The menace of unsolicited calls and sms  by service providers is an eye opener  to   other allegation that the telecommunication operators are also culpable of tax avoidance practices.Even though the allegation is yet to be substantiated by anyone,it cannot however be dismissed by a wave of hand. In essence, the allegation  needs further investigation by the appropriate authorities to ensure the telecommunication service providers pay tax as appropriate.

If it requires reorganisation of consumer protection agencies, the earlier the  government put necessary machinery  in place to achieve the feat.


      Rahaman Onike,an author,public administrator and policy analyst,Oyo,Oyo State.

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