By Etuka Sunday
The old saying that “Consumer is King” or “the Customer is always right” described how Central or vital the role of Consumer in the economic system of a Nation.
Without the consumer demand, producers would lack one of the key motivations to produce.
According to Wikipedia, “the customer is always right” is a slogan which exhorts service staff to give a high priority to customer satisfaction.
It was popularised by pioneering and successful retailers such as Harry Gordon Selfridge, John Wanamaker and Marshall Field.
They advocated that customer complaints should be treated seriously so that customer does not feel cheated or deceived.
A variation frequently used in Germany is “der Kunde ist Konig” (the customer is King).
Accordingly, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) recognizes the kingship role of consumers in the Telecom sector, therefore, has been persistently pushing to ensure the protection of their rights, privileges and interests, including the physically challenged groups through adequate information dissemination and empowerment programmes.
NCC recognizes that a consumer is a stakeholder in the telecommunication industry in Nigeria, thus, has the Right to be informed, Right to safety, Right to choose, Right to be heard, Right to privacy, Right to timely installation, restoration and repair service, Right to action on disputed charges, Right to accurate bill and quality service.
The NCC protects Consumers’ rights and provides information to consumers in various ways. This is carried out by the Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) of the Commission in collaboration with other Departments of the Commission.
The Nigerian Communications Act 2003 (NCA Act 2003) and Consumer Code of practice and Regulation 2007 (CCPR 2007) ensure that service Providers deal reasonably with the Consumers by providing them with information on their service that is complete, accurate, and up-to-date and in a simple and clear language.
The commission ensures that Service providers give advance warnings of anticipated services disruptions or planned outages, including details of the disruption or outage, the service and service areas affected and any applicable compensation or remedies.
The Commission has provided the consumers with Number Portability and Do-Not-Disturb Activation if they are dissatisfied.
The Mobile Number Portability is a service that enables you to keep your mobile phone number when changing from one mobile service provider to another. So you have the option of porting to another number if you are dissatisfied with the present number you’re using.
Unsolicited SMS is any message, calls which is transmitted for commercial transaction in regards to goods or services a subscriber opts not to receive. Therefore, NCC has provided a code 2442 to stop such unsolicited SMS or Calls. The consumers can Send ‘’STOP’’ to 2442 for full DND which does not allow subscribers to receive any unsolicited messages.
On the procedure for lodging consumer complaints, NCC said, Consumers who are dissatisfied with services rendered to them by any of the operators have a right to redress the situation through formal lodging of complaints to NCC.
Consumers are advised to call their network providers call centre numbers and when not satisfied call the NCC toll free number “622”. Or report to the Commission through the 5 Zonal Offices (Kano, Lagos, Port-Harcourt, Ibadan and Enugu) with the Headquarter located in Abuja.
The NCC in its consumer protection role established outreach programs aimed at providing avenues for consumers to meet with service providers to seek redress on any issues concerning service delivery.
These outreach programs are in three tiers namely; Telecom Consumer Parliament (TCP), Consumer Outreach Program (COP) and Consumer Town Hall Meeting (CTM).
For instance, at the 38th Edition of the Consumer Town Hall Meeting (CTM), in Zaria last year, the Executive Vice-Chairman, NCC, Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta said, the Meeting was put together by the Commission in recognition of the role of Consumer as a King in the palace of market.
Represented by the Deputy Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau, NCC, Alh. Ismail Adedigba, Prof. Danbatta said, the Consumer as a King must be accorded basic rights such as right to be heard, right to be educated, right to redress as well as right to safety.
He said, the main aim of the Consumer Town Hall Meeting was to enable tripartite meeting between regulators, operators and consumers to resolve pressing consumer’s issues as it relates to provision of telecom services.
He emphasized that “the focus of NCC on Consumer did not end with 2017 as Year of Telecom Consumer. In fact, it has just begun as the Commission is not in any way winding down on our avowed commitment to serve the Consumers better in all fronts as the Consumer remains the King of the Industry”.
He therefore, urged the Consumers to take advantage of the numerous channels to reach NCC as and when required.
Just last week, NCC said as part of its consumer protection activities, it has received and satisfactorily resolved 92,757 service-related complaints escalated to it for resolution by aggrieved telecommunications consumers in the past two years.
Deputy Director, Consumer Affairs Bureau of NCC, Alh. Ismail Adedigba, disclosed this in a report detailing consumer protection activities of the Commission presented during a consumer awareness campaign held in Niger State.
“Between January 2017 and December 2018, the Commission received a total of 118,784 complaints from consumers, of which 92,757, representing 78 per cent of total complaints received during the two years period were successfully resolved to the satisfaction of telecom consumers,” he said.
Accordingly, Adedigba said that 5,010 appreciations were received from some consumers who felt satisfied after the Commission had successfully resolved their issues for them and therefore decided to formally write and call the Commission to express their gratitude for the Commission interventionist efforts.
He explained that the complaints and appreciations were received through the Commission’s various channels of lodging complaints and interactive engagement platforms.
These, he said, include the NCC toll-free Line – 622, which is the Commission’s Contact Centre, the NCC Consumer Portal, consumer complaint redress email, written complaints, Social Media as well as those received at the Commission’s various outreach programmes which include Consumer Town Hall Meeting (CTM), Consumer Outreach Programme (COP) and Telecom Consumer Parliament (TCP).
Through the three consumer outreach programmes usually held by the Commission across different states on a rotational basis, Adedigba said more than 31, 202 consumers have been engaged face-to-face and adequately educated on their rights and privileges with respect to provision of telecoms services within the last two years.
He said during such fora, consumer fact sheets developed by the Commission on various service-related, topical issues are also distributed to educate consumers on various issues in the industry.
“The Commission places a lot of importance on consumer-related issues.
For this reason, the Commission has embarked on various initiatives, aimed at enlightening and protecting the consumers to ensure they get quality services, that they are treated right by the service providers and that they get value for money spent on telecom services, be it voice or data.
“Also, we ensure that we embark on initiatives aimed at providing wider service options as well as putting more control in the hands of the consumers to determine what they receive, especially in terms of value-added services (VAS) in line with our ‘PIE’ Mandate of Protecting, Informing and Educating the consumers. We understand the industry is big and we are doing our best to ensure consumer get quality service delivery,” he said.
Further to its determination to put more control in the hands of consumers to determine what they receive on their mobile lines, he noted that the NCC, in 2016, created the Do-Not-Disturb (DND) 2442 Short Code.
Adedigba explained that the Short Code allows telecoms consumers to get more protection against unsolicited text messages received as VAS and nuisance calls as well as against Internet-generated/distributed spam text messages that are fraudulently used to deduct consumer’s airtime credit.
“The DND code can be activated fully by sending “STOP” as a text message to 2442, thereby blocking all unsolicited text messages. It can also be activated partially by sending “HELP” as a text message to 2442 to choose from a list of categories of unsolicited messages which the consumer still wants to be receiving,” he said.
Adedigba further disclosed that, till date, more than 12 million telecom consumers have activated DND Code and as a Commission, we continue to create more awareness on DND in order for consumers to have control over the kind of unsolicited text messages they receive.
“We expect that this number will continue to grow as more consumers become aware of the DND Short Code through continuous awareness campaigns activities at our outreach events. However, subscription to the service is optional,” he said.