NCC: Large volume of illegal deductions discovered, customers to get refund

Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says it had uncovered large
volume of forceful subscriptions and illegal deductions by network providers and is set to order refunds to consumers.

Nnamdi Nwokike, the NCC Director, Public Affairs, who stated this in Abuja noted that the commission discovered the irregularity after it carried out long and comprehensive investigative audit into Value Added Services (VAS) subscriptions across all Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and VAS platforms.

He noted that 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.

He added that the audit team also found out that some providers had implemented disingenuous mechanisms by which large number of innocent consumers were “forcefully” subscribed to VAS platforms, leading to regular deduction of their airtime without their consent.

He said that NCC as consumer-centric regulator noted with great displeasure the unacceptably high level of consumer complaints in respect of forceful subscriptions to VAS, as well as airtime deductions for these subscriptions.

Nwokike stated that “the NCC had initaited measures to tackle the menace. These include the institution of comprehensive investigation and resolution process, the Do-not-Disturb (DND) facility, and the imposition of sanctions for breach.

“Disturbed by the persistent occurrence of the menace in spite of the measures, the commission carried out a long and comprehensive investigative audit into VAS subscriptions across all MNO and VAS platforms.

“The NCC investigative audit was led by the Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Department of the commission, with participation from other departments such as the Technical Standards and Network Integrity (TSNI), Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB), Legal & Regulatory Services (LRS) and Licensing & Authorisation (L&A).”

According to him, stakeholders are aware that  the commission has persistently insisted that actions of illegal deductions are unacceptable, as they are in direct breach of the Nigerian Communications Act.

He explained that based on the outcome of the investigative audit, the commission would shortly direct 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.”

Nwokeke noted that “NCC wishes to use the opportunity to inform the public that the commission may suspend or outrightly decommission some VAS platforms and services in the overall interest of consumers.”

He assured consumers that the measures would, however, be implemented with minimal inconvenience to them, “and trust that we can count on the understanding of consumers who may be affected by these measures.

“The commission assures stakeholders that it would continue to use all available resources to protect the rights of consumers of telecom services and to ensure that they got appropriate value for their interactions with service and platform providers.”