There is no gainsaying the fact that since the emergence of GSM revolution in early 2000, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has been on the toes of operators for the satisfaction of the Nigerian consumers. In this expansive media chat on television monitored in Lagos, by Business Hilights, the Director, Consumer Affairs at NCC, Abdullahi Maikano gives insights on the activities of his directorate and why 2017 is code-named ‘Year of the Consumer’.
This year, 2017 has been declared the year of the Consumer. What is the significance?
Thank you very much. The NCC is one of the consumer-centric agencies of the federal government.
At NCC, a whole directory is in charge of Consumer Affairs. We do not just have a desk, we have a directory at NCC and that is to show you that we are serious on issues of consumer affairs.
At the directorate, we have highly trained and efficient consumer advocates specialists and we have been over the years working solely for the interest of telecoms consumers.
You are aware that we are in a change administration. So as part of the agenda of the new Executive Vice Chairman, Prof Umar Danbatta, is to reemphasize the importance of the telecoms consumers.
In need, the consumer is the subject, object and beneficiary of the very essence of why NCC was created.
So declaring 2017 as the Year of telecoms Consumer is just to further emphasize and place the consumer at the very, very, very topmost priority of the NCC.
Now, how does the NCC strive to protect the interest of the consumers?
Yes, we have a lot of initiatives put in place to drive consumer affairs. One of such is a dedicated call centre with a toll-free number. Very simple number, 622. Consumers can call this number from any network to complain when they are not satisfied with certain services.
So many subscribers do have issues with that toll line except if you have changed your modus operandi?
For example, your terms of complain says one do not just call that number unless he or she has called the service provider to complain and you and I know that many of the operators hardly pick their calls especially when it has to do with complains?
Yes, I think that also should be another complain. The fact that you called your service provider and you are not getting response or through, that is an added complain. Now you can call the 622. Yes they will ask about your complain ID gotten from the particular network, but whereby you cannot reach the operators, you simply tell the NCC that you don’t have it because you cannot reach the network as at the time of the complain. It is understandable.
At NCC, we have a set of guidelines for complain handling. This is including issues on quality of service parameters and guidelines and what we expect every subscriber to do is to begin though complaining to the network operator.
For example, we set the number rings, a call to a network should ring before its answered. And if you are not able to get to the operator within the circumstance, that in itself is a breach on the side of operators.
You NCC complain line is said to be open from 8Am to 5PM daily?
Yes, that’s correct. We are there as a bridge between networks and subscribers’. We are regulators and not operators. And it is important to know that the networks have obligations to run their customer service lines, call centres 24/7.
What we have done recently as part of this 622, is that now it is multi-lingual, meaning that you can speak any language of your choice to lay your complain.
We have records of the number issues we have handled at NCC.
What is NCC doing about Quality of Service and unsolicited messages that have refused to stop after all attempts?
Quality of Service (QoS) generally is a moving target. Currently, we have over 150 million subscribers and it is safe to say that every adult in Nigeria has a phone and the rate at which they use phones increase over time.
In spite of all that, the infrastructure that is available as we speak is not adequate for the number of subscribers.
For instance, we have less than 40,000 base stations. We need a minimum of about 80,000 base stations to guarantee a minimum quality of service.
But this is not happening mainly because of right of way issues, access to land to build base stations.
As we speak, all the states are not giving assistance. Even where they give, they charge an arm and a leg.
So, until we get to that point where we get that minimum number of base stations, quality of service will be going up and down.
On the issue of unsolicited messages, we are also getting to it. Just few months ago, we came up with the Do Not Disturb Service (DND).
Now, subscribers can simply send STOP t0 2442 and within 24 hours such unsolicited messages are gone.
If you send STOP to 2442, you will get a message that you have been activated and it will take 24 hour to become effective.
What we have agreed with the networks is that after the activation in 24 hours, they will send you another massage that DND has been activated on your phone.
It is also in two ways; either you ask for full or partial DND depending on your likes and dislikes.
There is this complain that has been worrying data users. When your runs out, it automatically switches over to your credit and drain it faster. What are you doing in that regard? Moreover, you are not informed that this is about to happen.
Yes, NCC has already issued a directive to operators. It is illegal for any network operator to migrate you without notice to another payment structure.
When a subscriber make a choice on data package and it finishes. Two things the operator will do include alert you that your data is finished and secondly what next do you what.
When are Nigerians expecting cheaper tariffs considering the recession we are in now?
For record purposes, there is no tariff increase. NCC has not approved any tariff increment. Rather, somebody can even say, it has been going downwards since the per second billing came on board.
Talking about tariff reduction, it is important to understand that there is a direct correlation between quality of service and tariff.
Usually, if tariff goes down, the quality of service will come down because more people will come on board and networks will be over crowded or stretched to breaking point limit.
The issue of preregistered SIM is still recurring. Why?
NCC and all security agencies are concerned and even the government is disturbed. It is illegal for preregistered SIM to be used.
We have a lot of grey markets in the country and primarily a lot of people that buy or use the illicit SIM are criminal and we have been trailing them in every part of the country.
NCC has been advising prospective subscribers to always go to a controlled area and register their new SIM card than the road side for safety and legality.