NATCOMS KICKS AGAINST PROPOSED TARIFF HIKE IN NIGERIA

Telecoms

The National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS) has objected to the planned tariff increase by GSM operators in the country. NATCOMS in a communiqué issued at the end of an emergency meeting to deliberate on the proposed increase in tariffs, condemned the plan, describing it as "grossly unjustifiable, exploitative and a gross abuse of subscriber-operator marketing-mix bond".

Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, National President of NATCOMS who signed the communiqué on behalf of the members, stated that it was unacceptable that the Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators (ALTON) had averred recently that it planned to increase tariffs.

He stated that "ALTON members are using their Association mainly to create a 'group led monopoly' with the sole aim of exploiting subscribers on their network", an objective which he described as condemnable and against basic business ethics. He stated that telephony costs everywhere in the world is going down with increase in subscriber base, in view of the high volume / high value economic scenario.

Ogunbanjo further described the planned increase in tariff as not only exploitative, inconsiderate, condemnable, unjustifiable and uncalled for but against international best practices and an abuse of business ethics and consumerism in Nigeria .

He disclosed that the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is the government regulatory agency that approved new interconnect rates from N5.52k to almost double at N10.80k on June 21, 2006 for the Private Telecommunications Operators / Fixed Wireless Operators (PTO's/FWO's) commonly referred to and also known as land-lines.

He added that the PTO's / FWO's (The Land-line Operators) started implementing the new NCC approved tariff on September 22, 2006, a situation which he stated, led to NATCOMS taking the land-line operators and the NCC to court. The case is still in court.

He alleged that the NCC has now turned its back on the Nigerian Telecoms Consumer and now 'working' for the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria ALTON rather than be an impartial arbiter between Operators and Subscribers as the regulatory body.

He threatened that NATCOMS would have no other choice but to call for the removal of the Nigerian Communications Commission's Chief Executive Officer, if any increase is approved for the GSM operating companies.

Ogunbanjo averred that in recent years, all the GSM Operating Companies have failed the NCC quality of service tests including systems responsiveness, call set-up success rate, call voice quality, call failure rate, billing accuracy, recharge call success rate etc. He reiterated that with "high volume subscriber base, and questionable high tariff charges, subscribers believe that there will be efficient service-delivery" He added that " unfortunately the reverse is the case in the Nigerian Telecoms Spectrum where operators always fall short of customer service-delivery and expectations".

Calling to question the integrity of the NCC, Ogunbanjo wondered how impartial the NCC really is given the fact that according to him that the NCC always claim to be an impartial regulator between Telecoms Operator and Consumers but holds tariff charges increase meetings only with the Operators without the representatives of subscribers/consumers that are paying to keep operators in business.

Ogunbanjo who further disclosed that telecoms operating companies operate a tariff structure known as 'Price-cap regulatory regime' which he stressed is very exploitative in every way,gave the current interconnect and intra-connect rates as approved by NCC are as follows:

For land-line operators-N10.80k (i.e. from one network to another network) while they charge between N15.00 - N35.00 per minute, without any product / brand promotion. While for GSM Operators - N11.22k (i.e from one network to another network) while they charge N42.00 - 48.00 per minute without any product/brand promotion.

Ogunbanjo also accused the NCC of refusing to regulate SMS and intraconnect rates (i.e. calls within Operators network, which is like internal communications - intercom). According to him this scenario gives operators the licence to exploit consumers by charging the same rate as interconnect rates (i.e. calls from one network to the other). Intra-connect rates he stressed should not be more than N2.00 per minute because it is like an office intercom call which you pay nothing for. While according to him text message (SMS) should not cost more than N1.00 because it is data and not a voice call as it takes just one (1) second to send a text message, which is just like sending an E-mail on the internet.

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