The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, has again ordered Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to stop further exploitation of subscribers through the automatic activation of the voicemail service on their platforms.
By law, the voicemail service should be optional on operators’ platforms. But in practice, it has historically been offered as a mandatory call feature by MNOs resulting in loss of millions of call units by subscribers to the advantage of operators.
A statement by the Minister’s spokesperson, Mrs. Uwa Suleiman, which quoted Pantami, described the trend as “financial exploitation by Mobile Network Operators”.
According to the Minister, the practice has gained momentum in recent times, hence the order to stop with immediate effect.
“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. Voicemail is not a popular service among mobile phone users in Nigeria, coupled with the language challenge among rural dwellers, who mostly do not understand the language deployed by these networks,” the statement said.
“The Minister has issued a broad policy directive to the sector regulator- Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to immediately ensure that issues regarding automatic voicemails are addressed on all existing phone lines and it is apparent, that the recent clampdown on the exploitative activities of some Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in the country, has beamed the searchlight on the sector and some unpatriotic elements in the system are devising subtle, ingenious methods of defrauding Nigerians.
Reacting to the Minister’s directive yesterday, the Association of Licensed Telecommunications companies of Nigeria (ALTON) has reacted to the directive of the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Isa Pantami on deactivation of Voice Mail (VM) protocol by Service Providers saying it is once again amount to unnecessary interference by the Minister. ALTON said it is not a major “policy issue” within the meaning of section 23 &24 of the Nigeria Communication Act (NCA) which empowers the Minister to formulate “general policy for the communications sector…” after consultations organised by the NCC.
The group said it is a mere operational/consumer protection issue which the Ministry can simply call NCC’s attention to. “It is a purely consumer related issues that minister refers to as a major policy issue and it also amounts to unnecessary interference by the Minister contrary to Section 25 subsections 1 & 2 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003.”