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NCC to sanction Etisalat, 12 others over UTM breaches next week

In view of the observed breaches against a directive it handed down in August on random use of Unsolicited Telemarketing Messages (UTMs), the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has announced plans to sanction 13 telecoms operators including all the four major service providers.

The 13 network operators, include Airtel Network Limited, MTN Nigeria, Globacom Nigeria, Smile Communication, Visafone Communications, Ntel, Etisalat, Multi links, Starcomms, Danjay Telecoms, Gamjitel Limited and Gicell wireless.

Besides, a pointer to the spree of the messaging can be observed from the fact that many aggrieved Nigerians are now approaching the Court to seek redress, a move experts say looks like an indictment on the side of the regulator after all.

Whereas a subscriber had last week got a judgment from an Abuja High Court compelling Airtel to pay him N5m as damages for UTMs, former Governor of Kaduna, Abubakar Umar is on his way to another Court against growing number of UTMs from MTN.

It would be recalled that the NCC had on April 20, 2016, issued a ‘Do Not Disturb’ (DND) directives to telecoms operators, telling them to activate the code so that subscribers can use it to stop unsolicited materials.

But to put paid to its directive, indications emerged Monday that the Commission, having observed serious breaches, has earmarked 13 network operators for sanction next week if they fail to remedy the situation.

A statement by the Director, Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo said “After several meetings, including those it held with the network providers, it became necessary to issue the latest ultimatum to redress the menace of incessant unsolicited text messages and phone calls for telemarketing via the various networks”.

The Commission is worried by the non-compliance to regulations by the operators and had written to all 13 networks providers on whose networks, it has received series of complaints from subscribers regarding the efficacy of the Do Not Disturb (DND) service.

NCC said it had engaged mobile network operators on this subject and further directs that: the phrase Network generated SMS’ referred to part (d) of the duration issued on April 20, 2016 to network providers shall be taken to mean: messages and calls with respect to only: information on emergencies for example, national security, fire; notifications on network maintenance programmes down times and Notification regarding subscribers bundle usage and service renewals.

Other text messages and voice calls informing subscribers of new products and service offerings are not regarded as network generated and therefore regarded as “unsolicited telemarketing messages”.

The NCC has therefore asked these network providers to ensure that information on the Do Not

Disturb service should be disseminated after every revenue generating activity via the End of Call Notification (EOCN) for the period not less than 45 days within the hours of 8am to 8 pm daily from the receipt of the latest letter on the subject.

The operators are also admonished to deploy this information through all their channels of

communications, including websites, social media platforms, bill boards, flash messages, text messages, Interactive Voice Response platform, radio jingles, newspapers advertisements and television commercials.

The statement said that this notice serves as a pre-enforcement notice and “Failure to comply with the directives, in furtherance of the Direction of April 20, 2016, within seven days from November 14, 2016 shall result in the imposition of appropriate sanctions”.

Ojobo made it clear in the statement that “The menace of unsolicited text messages has been a nightmare to several millions of subscribers and the Commission can no longer accept any excuses whatsoever from the network providers”.