Isa Pantami, the minister of communications and digital economy, has ordered the deactivation of voicemail services on all existing phone lines in the country.
The minister said Mobile Network Operators are using the automatic activation of the voicemail service on their platforms to exploit Nigerians.
Pantami, who spoke through a statement issued by his spokesperson, Uwa Suleiman, on Thursday, November 14, 2019, directed the sector regulator, the Nigeria Communications Commission, to immediately ensure that the service providers complied with the order.
The directive was a continuation of the minister’s ongoing campaign against perceived exploitative practices by the telecom operators.
Recently, he directed the NCC to stop alleged ‘illegal’ deduction of subscribers’ data by the service providers.
NCC has also been directed to ensure a reduction of the rates charged for data by telecom operators in the country.
In the statement signed by Suleiman, the minister noted that the voicemail service should be voluntary, and not imposed on consumers.
He directed NCC to ensure that subscribers are given the option of accessing the service via an activation code.
According to the minister, unpatriotic elements in the sector have devised subtle ways to defraud unsuspecting Nigerians.
Parts of the statement read, “The attention of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy has been drawn to the latest trend of financial exploitation by Mobile Network Operators in the country, through the automatic activation of the Voicemail Service on their platforms.
“Based on recent reports reaching the office, the practice has gained momentum in recent times.
“The voicemail service should be accessed at the discretion of the subscriber and not by default.
“The minister finds it worrisome and totally unacceptable that telecoms subscribers incur financial charges for a service they are compelled to use by default.
“It is apparent that the recent clampdown on the exploitative activities of some Mobile Network Operators in the country has beamed the searchlight on the sector properly and some unpatriotic elements in the system are devising subtle, ingenious methods of defrauding Nigerians.”
The minister, in the statement, further observed that voicemail was not a popular service among mobile phone users in Nigeria.
Most consumers, particularly those in rural areas, do not understand the language used by the operators to program the service, the statement added.
The statement explained that Pantami vowed that the ministry, under his leadership, would not overlook any attempt to undermine the Federal Government’s anti-corruption crusade.
Pantami added that he would not condone any attempts to defraud subscribers in the country.
“In the light of this, Pantami has issued a broad policy directive to the Nigerian Communications Commission to immediately ensure that issues regarding automatic voicemails are addressed on all existing phone lines and the subscribers given the option of accessing the service via an activation code,” the statement said.
The minister, according to the statement, insisted that the rights of consumers must be protected, in line with global best practices.
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