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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

POOR SERVICE: Should FG Punish Telecoms Operators?

A telecoms tower
A telecoms tower
Telecomms subscribers in the country have called on the Ministry of Communication Technology, Consumer Protection Council and the Nigerian Communications Commission to punish telecoms operators for rendering poor quality services in line with their decision last month.
The Federal Government had, through the trio, threatened to prosecute telecoms service providers who continued to render poor quality services to subscribers after December 31, 2013. The decision was made on December 16, 2013.
Some subscribers, who spoke to our correspondent on Tuesday, maintained that poor quality of service had persisted despite the threat, and that operators found wanting in that regard should be made to face necessary sanctions.
The PUNCH had reported during the Christmas and New Year period that subscribers experienced difficulties communicating with their loved ones on the various telecoms networks.
Our correspondent had observed that some areas hitherto with good network quality suddenly lost signal, leading to dropped calls; and even where the signals were okay, some subscribers were unable to make and receive calls on Christmas Eve and the day after.
This lingered into the New Year as some subscribers could not use their phones due to network issues.
As a result of the problems, most subscribers had to rely on text messages, BlackBerry Messenger and emails to communicate with their families and friends.
The President, National Association of Telecoms Subscribers, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo, who spoke to our correspondent in a telephone interview on Tuesday, said inasmuch as the regulator remained committed to penalising operators, the focus should be on the subscribers.
He said over time, sanctions imposed on telecoms operators had only boosted the coffers of the government, with subscribers, who are the real sufferers of the poor services, not benefiting.
Ogunbanjo called for soft fines that would be beneficial to the subscriber population, saying bonus airtime that could be conveniently used by the subscribers should be looked at, and if possible, made part of the regulator’s mandate.
“Subscribers should be the focus when things like this are done. Government currently benefits from every call made by a subscriber. So, imposing fines on the operators that will still go to the government as revenue will not be a fair one on the subscribers,” the NATCOMS boss stated.
He warned the NCC against heavy monetary fines, saying such would only take away from the operators resources that could be invested to better their networks and serve the subscribers better.
Ogunbanjo commended the decision of the regulator to discontinue the sale of new Subscriber Identification Module cards for operators with poor quality services.
Our correspondent learnt from a director of one of the telecoms firms that the NCC was currently undertaking the Key Performance Indicator assessment of the operators and might act on the results very soon.
The Director-General, CPC, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, had said errant operators risked prosecution and jail terms of up to five years if ongoing investigations revealed that they had deliberately short-changed Nigerians through poor service delivery.
“The CPC can make orders in the interest and protection of consumers, and disobedience is also criminalised by law. While the NCC can impose fines on an offending operator, it can, in addition, commit such recalcitrant offender to jail term for contravening any consumer protection enactment,” she explained.
Source: Punch