By Technology Times Staff Reporters
Lagos. March 11, 2013: Eugene Juwah, the Executive Vice Chairman of the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has ordered the release of new rules empowering the government to revoke operating licence of any phone company in a fresh wave of crackdown against promotions and lotteries in the Nigerian telecoms market.
Juwah, who has said that under his watch it will no longer be business as usual for telecoms companies, has waged a war against operators over the issue of telecoms promotions and lotteries which is seen by the regulatory czar as impeding delivery of good service quality.
The new guidelines may also be cheery news for Internet users in Nigeria as it stipulates that companies offering Internet services in the country are also expected to make full disclosure about nature and speed of their connections.
“Licensees offering internet connections should state the Internet connection speed available to end-users as well as specific upload and download speed. If the connection speed quoted is only obtainable under special circumstances, then these circumstances should be clearly stated”, the NCC rules stipulate.
Under the provision of the new regulatory guidelines, operators will now be subjected to sums ranging from N1 million to N5 million in punitive fines per violation and in severe instances, may have their licence revoked by the government.
According to its provision, any violation of the guidelines will also attract N1 million fine per violation while companies that fail to provide information required or provide information which is false or misleading will also be fined N1 million per violation.
In the case of a company’s failure to obtain prior approval of the NCC before promotion of goods and services, the defaulting company will pay N2 million per violation.
The NCC rules also prescribe that failure or refusal by an operator to register any promotions with the Consumer Protection Council within the specified period will attract N5 million fine per violation.
The rules were set to ensure that operating telecoms companies adhere to set standards for advertisements, promotions, quality and grade of service by the industry watchdog, NCC says.
Accordingly telecoms companies “must communicate all prices and financial implications clearly and have no hidden or disguised price adjustments, discounts, unrealistic price comparisons or exaggerated claims as to worth or value.”
It further states that, “Advertising with complicated price structures and information shall not only appear in transient types of media such as radio and television but must be accompanied with detailed print media explanations, and on the licensee’s website. The transient media must specifically instruct consumers to see the print mediums for details.”
Only last month, the four biggest telecoms companies in Nigeria, MTN Nigeria, Globacom, Airtel Nigeria and Etisalat Nigeria, were fined a total of N22 million over allegations that they have breached promotions and lottery ban imposed on them by the regulator.
Late last year, the four companies were banned by the regulator from carrying out all forms of promotions and lotteries on account of poor service quality.
NCC says they have been in breach of the sanction and subsequently slammed new fines on the quartet under which MTN will pay N10 million; Etisalat Nigeria, N6 million; Airtel Nigeria, N4 million and Globacom, N2 million.
It has been no love lost between the regulator and operators as both parties were last year pitted against each other over the issue of service quality in which NCC slammed a hefty N1.17 billion fine against the Telecoms Big Four, MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat, citing their failure in meeting service quality grades set by the regulator.
The latest move by NCC gives legal backing to the fresh wave of crackdown on telecoms operators over the trade promotional scheme that now allows the government to revoke the operating license of phone companies that falls in breach of the guidelines on lotteries and promotions.
In its extreme form, the guidelines show that NCC can now revoke the licence of any defaulting company in a development that will lead to the shutdown of its operations if the operator breaches the new rules.
Industry analysts say the issuance of the regulation by the NCC now gives legal teeth to its bark and bite approach of the last few months of the telecoms regulatory agency under the watch of Juwah.
The regulatory czar who has said his focus would be to deliver broadband has often cautioned that it will no longer be business as usual under his leadership of the agency which last year rolled out a slew of punitive actions against erring operators for offenses ranging from illegal frequency squatting, poor service quality, among others.