Friday, May 12, 2017

Telecommunication: Nigerian Telecommunication Sector and the Rising Spates of Subscribers' Exploitation.

Tell me what it 's if not the height of “corporate irresponsibility, and unethical business practice" would make a company to advertise a set of products and services alongside explicit terms and conditions to guide its loyal customers towards making informed choices yet surreptitiously keeps going back on its words by charging them fees other than figures quoted in real time marketing/advertisement communication.


There’s also the flagrant act of breach of contract by denying clients the use of products and services after deductions have been made to their exact value or more in naira and kobo.

How'd you feel if you are to discover a brand you've so loyally followed over the years to be increasingly involved in this type of unwarranted abuse towards you?

You'd definitely feel bad, very bad!  Won't you?

What could be worse is yet the non availability of mechanism through which to seek prompt and satisfactory redress by way of refund or re-supply with the exact volume of products and services the concern clients have been cheated of.

More so, that the regulatory ombudsmen like the National Communication Commission (NCC) and the Consumer Protection Council of Nigeria (CPCN) whose oversight function it is to ensure like they say international best practices in the sector are seemed to be at best complacent in the discharge of said functions for how'd all these sharp practices keep happening right before their noses and nothing is done.

I know a lot of people in Nigeria can so easily connect with the above introductory scenario.

And at the height of this daily malaise they can only groan in silence or curse under their breath.

It could also be said that they've grown accustomed to it; and see it as something normal in the course of their quotidian activities.

Even those who do not see it as norm are left with very few options.

The Nigeria Telecommunication industry long dominated by the inefficient and corruption ridden state own NITEL;  but got the needed Private Sector Participation (PSP) boost it has long craved for over a decade ago.

There was euphoria and fanfare from the Nigerian hoi-polloi who breathe a sigh of relieve that at long last they are about to experience adequate and efficient voice and data penetration like their counterparts the world over.

Like anything new, they paid more initially both for the gadgets and the services with hopes that things will drastically scale down over time.

Indeed, that's exactly what happened despite the expressed impossibility in some quarters all thanks to healthy rivalry among the brands competing for both leadership and a share of the sprawling market which Nigeria represents.

Despite the numerous gains achieved overtime in the sector, there is, however, a growing concern among the subscribers over what they term as "systematic, well orchestrated and ongoing exploitation" by virtually all the Telecom providers.

The well indexed complains includes drop calls, ponzi promotions whose winners are at best ghostly, auto-activated products and services for which subscribers are totally clueless, data subscription deemed exhausted without use, recharge multipliers promos which are nothing but giving with the right hand but taking with the left, and dubious flash ads tendentiously sent to induce unintentional clicks.

The list goes on and on!

So far their many concerns have not been adequately addressed except for the hefty $5.2 billion dollars fine later reduced to $3.9 billion dollars after months of negotiation and re-negotiation with the federal government slapped on MTN by the NCC over what it termed a breach of trust.

The payment period is three years.

It must be remember that NCC and the telecom providers agreed to a penalty of $1,000 dollars for each unregistered SIM in operation after the grace period to register all SIMS on their networks.

Though the heavy penalty was meant to serve as deterrent both to the erring company and others who might want to tow similar path; surprisingly however, the attitudes of the company in question and to a lesser degree others have become one devoid of expected remorse if subsequent outcries from subscribers are anything to go by.

It has continue to act in manner of a snake badly wounded that will spare nothing in sight whether human or not in a bid to have it revenge.    

While the case above is beneficial only to the government, the people in almost all other situations are left in the lurch to bear the brunt of a system that's fraught with wanton irregularities.

Aside this what we've seen are routine read-out riot acts and slaps-in-the-wrist caution which have regularly proved to be ineffective against a group of compulsive thieves hiding behind their supercomputers spread across the nation to fleece helpless Nigerians.

Something many interpreted to mean that they have been abandon as carrion to these Vultures called foreign investors.

And because most of these fraudulent activities are auto-generated by unmanned system having been design and test-run by the operators' personnel that make it particularly difficult to detect by end users who lacks the required capacity to do so.

To illustrate this, let me relate one of my numerous personal experiences.

"In the second transaction of its kind, I subscribed for a monthly data plan of 1.5GB at 1,000 naira. This was around 11pm in the evening of Friday, 5th of April, 2017.

In addition to 1,000 naira worth of data, I got a bonus of 20MB and 1GB respectively.

So I went to bed assured that my data need for that month is taken care of.

Alas, at day break. the purchased data is nowhere to be found.

I double checked to be sure what was going on with their short code to confirm and the response was a crypt "you've exhausted your data plan, and to continue browsing you'll be charged XYZ amount"

I immediately pressed the exit button.

Annoyed and yet hopeful of restitution, subsequently, I routed a call to the first online agent who confirmed the recharge of 1,000 naira and promises to report to the management with an  anodyne parting shot that something will be done in 24 hours.

After waiting for almost 20 hours and nothing is happening, I routed another call to an online agent.

This time I got a shocker of response that I've exhausted my data from what the agent could see on the system.

I pressed further for more clarification on what could have gone wrong because obviously I couldn't be calling without been genuine aggrieved.
He insisted that I've exhausted my data plan and there's nothing he can do about.

I felt a biting anger inside of me while his voice trail off with the well-rehearsed word of appreciation for choosing the network in question."

I know many people have had and still having similar bitter experiences with no dependable platform for justice.

The question is, are we going to allow this type of institutional rape (or call it corruption if you like) to continue unabated?

It's an aberration gone too far and must be stopped by every means legal.

The buck of the task stops on the desk of NCC and the NCPA; and by extension federal government of 

Nigeria because subscribers really are helpless in the face of these rampant rapes of trust/contract unleashed against them by virtually all the telecom providers in Nigeria.

I hope and pray the concern agencies see these as a national embarrassment and find a way to put a final stop to it.

The loss to subscribers if estimated would run into several billions of naira annually.

And to imagine such a huge some is been dishonestly made off Nigerians by no one else but foreigners while the government adopts seemingly an indifferent approach speaks to the fact that we've become a morally complicit nation which care less about the welfare of its citizenry.

The danger is predictable enough, it would embolden the perpetrators to continue in the path of illegality guaranteed that nothing will happen to them both in the long and short term.

And that'll truly mean as been vociferously peddled that Nigeria is a ZOO where everything and anything simply goes.










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