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.