The consumer base of telecommunications services in Nigeria have continued to grow across the vast geographical area of the country.
Conceptually, the consumer includes both corporate, communal, institutional, individual and many other categories of users of telecom products and services.
The consumers of telecom products and services want services available at all times and at every place. They also want to be protected at all times from being taken advantage of by service providers. Just like consumers of any services, the consumer of telecom services wants to be treated fairly.
In recognition of these desires of the consumer, the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has put in place special structures to ensure that the needs and desires of the consumer are taken care of. To help telecom consumers to become fully aware of their rights, the Commission, in the second edition of its quarterly publication, highlights the underlisted basic consumer rights as they relates to the Nigerian telecoms sector:
The right to be informed: Consumers have the right to information on goods and services. They have the right to receive clear and complete terms and conditions for service agreements and disclosures of prices of goods and services, and to affirmatively accept all terms and conditions before charged for services. This also includes the right to be protected against fraudulent, misleading and deceitful information, advertisement or labeling.
Right to Safety: This is the right to be protected against the marketing of goods and services that are hazardous to public health.
Right to choose: Telecom consumers have the right to be assured wherever possible to a variety of goods and services at competitive prices with satisfactory quality.
Right to be heard: As consumers, you have the right to get fair, inexpensive and quick redress of grievances. Consumers must have accessible knowledge of the complaint process and the steps needed to lodge the complaint. Consumers have the right to a consumer-oriented response for complaint and as prescribed by the Consumer Codes of Practice and Regulations.
Right of Privacy: The right to personal privacy is always emphasized in the constitution. Telecom consumers have the right to protection from unauthorized use of their records and personal information, and to reject intrusive communications and technology.
Right to timely installation, Restoration and Repair Service: Consumers have the right to timely installation of new services, and restoration and repair of existing services when faulty.
Right to timely and responsive customer service: Telecom consumers have the right to timely and polite customer service from knowledgeable employees. Consumers have the right to speak to a service provider if dissatisfied with customer service, and to be informed of this right during the initial complaint process. Consumers also have the right to file a complaint with the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) if the problem is not resolved after speaking with a supervisor, and to be informed of the right during the initial complaint process.
Right to quality service: Telecom consumers have the right to quality service. Operating companies must provide a 24 hour repair service number and list it out in their directory. Consumers also have right to access vendor’s annual quality of service reports.
Right to Accurate, clear worded and organised bills: Consumers have the right to be accurately billed for services they subscribe. Vendors of telecoms services must provide clearly worded and organized bills.
Right to action and disputed charges: Telecom consumers have the right of notice before any disconnection. Service providers must avoid imposing any disconnection or credit management action regarding any service to which a complaint or billing dispute relates while the complaint or dispute is being investigated.
Right to Timely redress: Consumers have the right to timely dispute resolution by service providers. Service providers must provide clear information and customer bill explaining how and where consumers can complain. Consumers must have their complaints addressed in a timely manner without harassment.
Right to fair complaint process: Telecom consumers have the right to a fair complaint process. Consumers must have accessible knowledge of the complaint process and steps needed to lodge a complaint. Consumers have the right to customer-oriented response complaint within 24 hours.
Right to oversight and enforcement: Consumers have the right to be informed of their rights and what agency enforces those rights. Consumers have the right to address how well the state and federal regulators monitor or implement consumer protections on their behalf.
NCC has also made provision for consumers to file a complaint against any service provider. The telecoms regulator however says this should be done after contacting the service providers and still dissatisfied with the response.
The toll free number to call is 0800-2255-622. The number is available from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm Monday to Friday, excluding public holidays, according to the Nigerian telecoms regulator.