Why NCC Can’t Transfer N642 Million Penalties To Telcom Subscribers

Why NCC Can’t Transfer N642 Million Penalties To Telcom Subscribers

By ThisDay on March 27, 2014
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The Executive Vice-Chairman, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Mr. Eugene Juwah, yesterday disclosed that the commission cannot make any cash transfer to subscribers of GSM telecommunications service as a result of the recent sanctions, which compelled MTN, Glo and Airtel to cough out N647 million due to their poor quality services, because the Act setting up the NCC does not empower it to do so.

He expressed optimism that the country was set to witness broadband revolution, because of the recently launched Open Access Model (OAM), adding that the NCC, had concluded arrangements to licence seven infrastructure companies to provide open access for broadband deployment before the end of the year. “What we have witnessed is a revolution of voice, what is coming is a revolution of data,” he said.

Juwah, who was represented by the NCC Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo, spoke at the NCC Day, at the Abuja Centenary Trade Fair, exhibition organised by the Abuja Chambers of Commerce Industry Mines and Agriculture (ABUCCIMA). He said the Act establishing the commission does not empower it to refund penalty fees to subscribers or consumers who felt cheated over poor services.

He said: “There is nothing in our law that has empowers NCC to share money, which is paid as penalty. It is just like someone who is fined by a court of law. They don’t give the money to the plaintiff, the money is paid into government coffers.”

However, what service providers can do is give airtime to individual subscriber whom they have cheated in one way or another but not the money. “For instance, it is easier for them to give airtime than to bring out the money to pay debt,” he said.

According to him, penalty should be something that would compel the operators to improve on their quality of service. He said: “Mind you, they can give airtime as compensation and still be providing poor quality of service, but if they feel pained to cough out N270 million, they should be obliged to improve on their service.
“The idea of such a painful sanction is to make them improve on the  quality of their service. However, the service providers face other challenges that we need to be aware of like their inability to deploy infrastructure, which affects quality of service being provided.” Juwah added.

While appreciating the challenges operators face, he stated: “In the past two years, no new base station has been built in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), because of issues like Right of Ways (RoW) and also approval for them to build base stations.

In her remark, the NCC Director of Consumer Affairs, Mrs. Maryam  Bayi, while acknowledging the poor quality of telecommunications service said: “We are very much aware of unsolicited text messages, we have a situation whereby people have not opted for a service, and they find themselves subscribing to it and the operator making deductions. We are actually talking to the service providers on that though they have come up with excuses and we have said that is not acceptable.

“Sometimes, you wake up  in the morning and find certain messages that you did not subscribe to. When this happens, report to the service provider and if they are not forthcoming, report to NCC because sometimes they do deny these things. NCC is aware of these unsolicited text messages issue and is working to make sure it is checked,” she said.

She stated that NCC took the decision to sanction three major operators recently because of the poor quality of service, adding that they had failed the Key Performance Indices (KPIs) set for them. Besides, the operators have been banned from expanding their customers’ base through sale of Sim cards, she added.
On why refund cannot be made to subscribers as a result of poor services, Bayi said: “If you are going to distribute these monies back to the consumers you will get nothing more than N12 or N15 only, when you have spent N750 or N1500.”

According to her the monies accruing to NCC as a result of the penalty goes to  government coffers. Besides, she added:  “But we: NCC, are using it for Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). I don’t know if you aware of our Emergency Communication Centres (ECCs), NCC is using a good part of that money to build ECCs across the 6 geopolitical zones, so that people can access the Police, the medical centres, the Immigration and others,” she said.

However, she said NCC in 2008 asked a service provider to refund N2000.00 to each subscribers because of poor services, adding that the Commission had been working hard to see that telecommunication operators do not rip people off.

“We have resolved so many cases as people have written to us and said that their monies have been deducted, we make sure that such monies are paid. Sometime ago, a promo was organised, about a plane to be won and as they wanted to wriggle out of it, NCC ensured that the money was paid to the winner in cash of about N65 million.

“So NCC does not joke with these things, and when we see that a consumer is going to be ripped off, we really stand our ground that such a subscriber gets value for his money. Sometimes there are many things you would want to do but certain things will prevent you. “There are many businesses that cannot be run today in the country because of power, it is just the situation that we have found ourselves, but I want consumers to have confidence and trust in NCC commitment to ensuring their rights are not violated,” he said.

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