The Nigerian Communications Commission is set to order mobile operators to refund more than N36bn illegally deducted from mobile telecommunications subscribers through forced subscription to Value Added Services.
In a statement made released in Abuja on Wednesday, the telecommunications regulator said that it had uncovered a large volume of forceful subscriptions and illegal deductions by network providers.
Although the NCC did not mention the amount of money deducted from subscribers through forceful subscription, sources informed about the development confirmed to our correspondent that the amount was more than N36bn over a period of two years.
The statement read in part, “As a consumer-centric regulator, the NCC has noted with great displeasure the unacceptably 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. These include the institution of a comprehensive investigation and resolution process, the Do-not-Disturb facility, and the imposition of sanctions for breach.
“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 investigative audit was led by the Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Department of the commission, with participation from its other departments such as the Technical Standards and Network Integrity, Consumer Affairs Bureau, Legal and Regulatory Services and Licensing and Authorisation.
“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.”
The regulatory agency said that 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 added that such actions undermined the very foundations of the customer/service provider relationship – transparency and trust.
The NCC 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.”