Consumer satisfaction, central organizing principle of our regulatory activities, says Danbatta

From Cyriacus Nnaji, Lagos

Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta has stated that consumer satisfaction is the central organizing principle of the activities of the regulatory body.

This disclosure was part of his speech to the World Press Conference in Commemoration of the 2021 World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) held on Monday, March 15, 2021

The conference which was virtual attracted Board of Commissioners of NCC, Executive Commissioners, Directors, other members of the Management and Staff of NCC, Telecom Consumers and other Stakeholders in the Nigerian Telecom Ecosystem; the Press and other Communication professionals, has the theme “Tackling Plastic Pollution”. 

He said “In line with this year’s celebration,  it bears restating, that, while the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is concluding processes to issue the regulation on Electronic Waste, it is mindful of the fact that many ICT and telecom devices have plastic components, whose waste materials could worsen plastic pollution.

“We reckon that improper disposal of such disused ICT-plastic embedded products have grave implication on public health, and especially in achieving Goals 11, 12 and 13 of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 2030. These goals speak to the imperative of adhering to practices that enhance Sustainable Cities and Communities, Responsible Consumption and Production; as well as Climate Action respectively,” Danbatta said.

Speaking on thetechnical activities of the commission that are focused on Consumer Protection, he said the Commission, worried by the recurrent cycle of fraudulent deployment of fake and substandard mobile devices, usually made of iron and plastic components, collaborated with the Office of the National Security Adviser and other relevant government agencies to inaugurate a committee to implement Mobile Devices Management Systems (DMS). This initiative is designed as a Public-Private Partnership aimed at combating the proliferation of fake, counterfeit, substandard and cloned communication devices in the telecommunications industry. The expected result of this initiative, he said, is that, only genuine materials malleable to enduring usage are available for consumer use.

Danbatta also disclosed that the Commission also implemented a strict type-approval process that ensures all equipment used in the telecommunications industry are of a suitable standard, both for the good of the consumers and for the preservation of the environment.

Speaking on Consumer-centric Regulations, Danbatta said “The Nigerian Communications Act 2003 – enjoins the Commission to protect the interest of the consumers, which the Commission has done religiously, through subsidiary legislations, guidelines and directions that proactively address consumer concerns and stipulate responsibilities of all stakeholders. We had made declarations to curtail excesses of some operators and to expand the frontiers of freedom for the consumers.

The Commission, he said, has ensured full compliance with Subscriber Identification Module (SIM) cards registration guidelines by the service providers and telecom consumers. This is to ensure proper registration to stop the use of improperly-registered SIMs, which usage is difficult to track. Having a credible subscriber database helps in tracing a SIM card to the real owner in case of any criminal investigation.

“We have made arrests and prosecutions in the past in this regard and through this effort, we have been able to sanitize the telecoms ecosystem of improperly-registered SIM cards that pose threat to national security. It is therefore pertinent to say that the linking of SIM and National Identity Number (NIN) database will further help us in this direction toward protecting the consumers and all citizens at large.

“The Commission has issued a number of Directions to service providers in order to ensure consumers are not shortchanged by telecom service providers. Some of the directions include: Direction on Do-Not-Disturb, Direction on Data Roll-Over, Direction on Automatic Renewal of Data Services, and Direction on Forceful Subscription to Data Services and Value-Added Services.”

Danbatta said the Management of the Commission also takes consumer information and education very seriously. “Just recently, it approved the re-structuring of our legacy consumer outreach and engagement programmes. These modifications were made to increase our reach to telecom consumers wherever they are while also observing COVID-19 protocols.”

He said some of the new information and education programmes include: Telecom Town Halls on Radio, a phone-in dialogic programme to be hosted via radio stations across the country where consumers at the grassroots level will be engaged in their own local language; Telecom and The Citizen – a biweekly Twitter Live Chat targeting social media users; Telecom TV Dialogue – a monthly television-based discourse on topical telecom issues; and Telecom Consumer Conversations – which is segmented and targeted at different consumer groups including: The Village Square Dialogue, The Telecom Public Sphere, The Professionals’ Dialogue, Campus Conversation, Market Conversation and the NYSC Conversation.

Danbatta disclosed that the flagship outreach programme, Telecom Consumer Parliament, is still up and running. “Similarly, other Information, Education and Communication (IEC) materials like digital banners and factsheets in bookmarks format, have been remodeled in a way that deliver lasting value to the consumers. 

He said in keeping with global best practice of digital public communication for information and complaints management, the Commission continued to leverage social media platforms of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn and YouTube, to inform and educate consumers and to use them as complaints channels for the Commission. In addition, the NCC Consumer Web Portal serves as an alternative online channel for lodging complaints and making enquiries.

“The specially created toll free number 622 and DND short code 2442, are as active as ever. They are emplaced respectively to enable consumers to escalate unresolved complaints earlier reported to service providers, and to manage unsolicited messages. Just last month, we provided evidence that “NCC’s DND crashes unsolicited SMS by 96.6% in three years”.

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