NCC Vs. Telcos: How The Battle Against Unsolicited Text Messages Was Won….Swiftly

Every phone user knows that unsolicited text messages can be as annoying as a penchant for a belly-ache. These texts come in form of promotional messages sent to a consumer without the consumer’s prior request or consent. They come frequently with commercial content, in large quantities to an indiscriminate set of telephone subscribers. Amid so much digital overload — emails, Instagram and Facebook photos, annoying tweets and pestering Whatsapp messages — it should not be wondered at that we all deal with these unsolicited text messages with the mild annoyance of a busy executive compelled to swat a fly.

B.I.G Lawal, Esq. Principal Partner/CEO, Harlem Solicitors

On June 30, 2017, the President of Paraguay promulgated Law 5830 on prohibiting unauthorized advertising clogging the phones.  The Law, if heinous, empowers all phone userswith the power to decide whether they want to receive such advertising.  As a means of ensuring that the law is routinely enforced, Paraguay, under Law 5830 creates a National Registry within the Secretariat of Consumer and User Protection (Secretaria de Defensa del Consumidor y el Usuario) charged with the responsibility of protecting the public against abuses that occur when merchants try to contact potential buyers by means of the latter’s mobile phones to advertise or promote the sale or purchase of goods and services that were not requested by those phone users. As a matter of fact, Article 4 of the Law makes it obligatory upon all individuals and companies are made to register their mobile phone numbers free of charge in the National Registry so as to prevent unwanted contact for advertising or promotional purposes. In an unlikely situation that unwanted advertising continues despite the registration, Article 9 of the Law provides for economic sanctions against those violating the law.

Perhaps taking a cue from Paraguay, the Nigerian Communications Commission (hereinafter referred to as ‘the NCC’) came to the rescue of Nigerian and took a giant step to stop these irksome practices to which most of the telcos are forever prone. Thus, the NCC invoked a regulatory provision which had hitherto been overlooked by the operators, directing the telcos to activate the DO NOT DISTURB’ facility which gives subscribers the freedom to choose what messages to receive from the various networks. By the Direction which took effect from July 1, 2016, the telcos were mandated to dedicate a common Short Code (2442) which enabled phone users take informed decisions. In order to ensure that the telcos gave forceful attention to the Direction, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the commission, Professor Umar Garba Danbatta, was said to have encouraged consumers to access the customer toll free line by dialing 622 to register their complaints if they do not get such complaints addressed by the Network operator. MTN Nigeria was the first telco that complied with the new directive.

In a statement signed by NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, Tony Ojobo, phone users were further told that “the NCC introduced the Do Not Disturb (DND) facility (to sensitize) consumers on the need to activate the service by dialing “2442” to address the unsolicited calls received by consumers. The broad spectrum of services covered in this area include:

Real Estate, Education & Health, Banking/Insurance/ Financial Products, Consumer Goods and Automobiles, Communication/ Broadcasting/ Entertainment/ IT, Tourism and leisure, Sports, Religion(Christianity, Islam, others) etc. Accordingly, the NCC directed the telcos to give the necessary publicity and enlightenment that will enable phone users subscribe to a particular service or services, or even, none at all.

So, how to bid the endless unwanted messages creeping endlessly into homes and offices through the phones? Below are the various options available to phone users which are recommended by the NCC- and they are free:

  • “SMS 1” for receiving SMS relating to Banking/Insurance/ Financial products to 2442
  • “SMS 2” for receiving |SMS relating to real Estate to 2442
  • “SMS 3” for receiving SMS relating to Education to 2442
  • “SMS 4” for receiving SMS relating to Health to 2442
  • “SMS 5” for receiving SMS relating to Consumer goods and Automobiles to 2442”
  • “SMS 6” for receiving SMS relating to Communication/ Broadcasting Entertainment/IT to 2442
  • “SMS 7” for receiving SMS relating to Tourism and leisure to 2442
  • “SMS 8” for receiving SMS relating to Sports to 2442
  • “SMS 9” for receiving SMS relating to Religion to 2442
  • Full ‘DO NOT DISTURB’ is to stop all unsolicited messages. Text SMS “STOP” to 2442.

According to the NCC, the directive does not affect personal messages or person to person messages which are private communication by individuals.

Well, now, that’s one annoyance cleared away. However, these options are not likely to clean up the irritants in daily telephone communication, but it is a sufficiently impressive start that entitles the NCC to festoons no less than a Nobel Prize! Now we can concentrate more on credit alerts and heave a sigh of relief like a man whose bank note has just been called.

biglaw@harlemsolicitors.com

 

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