Nigeria: Natcoms statement calls for Nigerian mobile subscribers to be given compensation as found in Bangladesh and India

Telecoms

GSM was introduced in Nigeria in August, 2001. The two network operators in Nigeria then, gave subscribers on their network an introductory incentive of N6,000.00 (Six Thousand Naira) FREE to call any network.

We appreciate this gesture as the introduction of GSM in Nigeria in 2001 has brought about positive changes for individuals, corporate organizations, government at all levels and the country at large. It has saved thousands of lives in emergency, created and still creating jobs for many Nigerians, eased communications within families, work places and across nations. Also, apart from bringing Direct Foreign Investment (DFI) into Nigeria and appreciating Nigeria’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) it brought foreign and local investors’ confidence to the Nigerian economy and nation.

THE BEGINNING

However, in January 2002, Telecoms Operators in Nigeria continued the per-minute billing (PMB) system and the service quality was declining with very high tariff structure.

In February 2002, in view of the continuous exploitation of Nigerian Subscribers and the per-minute billing system adopted by the two telecoms operators whereas South African Subscribers were already enjoying the per-second billing system with moderate tariff structure, Messrs Bayo Omotubora and Adeolu Ogunbanjo, filed a suit against the two operators (ECONET and MTN), to immediately commence the per-second billing (PSB) as it was in South Africa, reduce the tariff to twenty kobo per second and improve on the quality of service.

POOR QUALITY OF TELECOMS SERVICES

There have been a lot of issues and concerns about the Quality of Service (QoS) of Telecoms Operators in Nigeria. Telecoms Subscribers in Nigeria have adjudged the quality of service of telecoms operators in Nigeria as POOR due to the following reasons:

  1. Missing Credit issues
  2. Caller Tunes and Music issues
  3. Paid for, but undelivered SMS
  4. Airtime Reward issues
  5. Automatic Data Plan Renewals
  6. Borrowed Credit Over-deduction Issues
  7. Share and Sell issues
  8. Can’t receive / Can’t call
  9. Can’t send / Can’t receive SMS
  10. Data / Internet Bundle and GPRS related issues
  11. Breaking / Dropped Calls and Cross-talk issues
  12. Can’t check Account balance
  13. Can’t access Call Center Agents due to Programmed Responses
  14. Over - scratched Recharge Cards resolution delays and other issues
  15. Unsolicited Short Code & Network Operator Calls
  16. Unsolicited SMS
  17. Unauthorized Short Code and Network credit deductions
  18. Caller / Recipient incomplete call issues
  19. Call Center long waiting time / response issues
  20. Caller / Recipient silent calls issues
  21. Subscribers placed on suspension
  22. SWAP issues
  23. Unresolved Call Centre complaints and redress issues.

The above translates to complaints such as:

  1. Dialing a number between 5-10 times before getting connected /not-connected 
  2. Dialing several times and still getting a ‘call failed’ message.
  3. Moving from one place to the other in search of network signal before receiving or making calls
  4. When you dial and eventually connected, you will be a lucky subscriber if both caller and recipient can hear each other without voice-breaks. Often times, the caller /recipient may hear the recipient /caller, while the caller /recipient cannot hear. Yet this incomplete call is paid for.
  5. Sometimes when both of you are connected and you can hear each other, after talking for few minutes, one of you will not hear the other again. The call has been terminated by one of the networks.
  6. When you have tried to call through voice to no avail, you want to try the SMS (Text Massage) alternative. After typing your SMS and trying to send, it may not sail through, even after several trials as it gives the usual ‘message sending failed’ on the screen. You must keep trying even if it takes 15-30 minutes before a successful attempt.
  7. When your Text Message (SMS) is successfully sent, and the message is not delivered, the Subscriber is still charged.
  8. When your mobile-phone credit gets exhausted and you try to recharge in order to make an urgent call, you may not be able to recharge no matter how many times you try at that particular time.
  9. Sometimes, when you successfully recharge your phone either for voice calls or data /internet browsing and the network operator mistakenly remove Subscriber’s credit, and thereafter, Subscriber complains through operator’s customer care line or goes physically to operator’s customer care office, they deliberately keep posting Subscribers and not actually resolving the complaint. And in view of the small amounts usually involved, the Subscriber does not seek for compensation, even when he tries, the customer-care officer is trained to tell stories that will eventually frustrate the Subscriber.
  10. When trying to complain to customer-care of a network problem or over-scratched recharge card with some pin numbers not showing, they will either direct you to their website or keep you waiting for between 30 minutes to 1-hour. If you are lucky to get attention and you are eventually attended to, it takes 3-6 months before crediting the subscriber, after taking the details.
  11. When the Subscriber complains through network operator’s customer care line, he /she will be told that it will be resolved in few numbers of days to no avail. Even when the Subscriber physically goes to the Customer Care Centre of the network operator, it is also promises of resolution to no avail. Only 1 or 2 of every 100 cases are resolved satisfactorily.  
  12. When the operators run their promotions for profit motives, they deliberately congest the network to the detriment of good service quality which affects Subscribers.

THE NCC, FINES AND TELECOMS OPERATORS

In furtherance to the above, the Nigerian Communications Commission bi-annually appraises the quality of service of the network operators by some specific Key Performance Indicator Parameters (KPI’s).
When any Telecoms operator falls short of these specific Key Performance Indicator parameters and are service quality deficient, they are then sanctioned. The only major sanction currently, is by imposing various amounts of FINES on the Telecoms operators running to billions Naira.

These fines are paid into government treasury with the 3 tiers of government as major beneficiaries.

The subscribers that have been injured through poor service quality are left in the cold without any compensation whatsoever.
Unfortunately for subscribers in Nigeria, the Nigerian Communications Commission Act 2003, only provided compensation for consumer if . . . .
a) There is network service disruption
b) There is network service outage
The NCC Act does not provide compensation to Subscribers for poor quality of service.

SUBSCRIBERS SPENDINGS ON TELECOMS SERVICES

It is noteworthy to state that while Nigerian Subscribers spend a minimum of #1,200,000,000,000 (One Trillion, Two Hundred Billion Naira) on phone calls annually, Subscriber also lose a whopping N730,000,000,000 (Seven Hundred and Thirty Billion Naira) annually to poor quality of service without any compensation whatever to the seriously injured subscribers.

COMPENSATION PLAN IN BANGLADESH, INDIA, ETC

In other countries like India and Bangladesh, the Telecommunications Regulators in these countries are currently putting in place a Subscriber’s Compensation Policy.

Also, the Director General, Consumer Protection Council, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, when she paid a courtesy call to the CEO & EVC of NCC, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, at the Commission’s headquarters in Abuja, requested the Nigerian Communications Commission to come up with a Special Compensation Scheme to take care of poor quality of service being experienced by Nigerian Telecoms Consumers. 

COMPENSATION PLAN FOR TELECOMS SUBSCRIBERS

We are appealing to Nigerian Communications Commission helmsman to ensure that a Subscriber’s Compensation Policy which will compensate subscribers with Free Airtime, which is a SOFT FINE anytime the Telecoms Operators perform below the Key Performance Indicators parameters (KPI) as set by the Nigerian Communications Commission.

The current practice where Telecoms Operators fall short of KPI parameters and are made to pay huge fines, which goes only to government coffers, is to say the least, very unsavory of the Subscribers who suffers the injury and the brunt of poor quality service and other unauthorized deductions.
Source: Chief Adeolu Ogunbanjo, National President, NATCOMS