Watchdog pulls plug on Glo Offala, Airtel Big Family tariff deals
The telecoms regulator has stopped the Glo Offala bouquet that allows Glo subscribers to make mobile phone calls at 5kobo per second sec or N3.00 per minute as well as the Airtel Big Family package that allows 10kobo per sec or N6.00 per minute call rates on the Airtel Nigeria network, over allegations that the call rates by the two mobile phone companies were cheaper than the approved benchmark of N6.40 per minute.[blockquote right=”pull-right” cite=”NCC”]However, NCC said that companies cannot offer cheaper prices to phone users below its set benchmark because it has responsibility to protect telecoms consumers. [/blockquote]
Justifying its action, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) also revealed that the major telecoms companies do not keep accurate database of their approved tariffs charged mobile phone users.
“The Commission’s findings revealed that there is no accurate database of approved tariff plan for all the major licensees visited”, the telecoms regulator said.
However, NCC said that companies cannot offer cheaper prices to phone users below its set benchmark because it has responsibility to protect telecoms consumers.
“Ensuring that operators charge approved and accurate telecoms tariff lies at the heart of consumer protection in the telecommunications industry. Hence it is imperative that network carriers are transparent, fair and truthful in their billing practices as consumers deserve nothing less”, the Nigerian Communications Commission said in justifying the freeze on the low-cost pricing campaigns by the two operators.
But they are not alone as checks by the Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Dept (CMED) of NCC revealed some tariff lapses by the major telecoms companies in the country.
“Consequent upon the above and consistent with Section 89 of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003 which mandates the Commission to monitor all significant matters relating to the performance of all licensees, tariff inclusive, Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Dept (CMED) carried out a compliance visit to the mobile network operators (MNOs) to conduct a sample billing test and review various billing scenarios on all major operators, to ensure that the operators are fair, truthful and accurate in their billing practices within the industry”, the NCC added.
Apart from discovering the Globacom and Airtel Nigeria were offering lower than industry benchmark prices, NCC’s “findings revealed that there is no accurate database of approved tariff plan for all the major licensees visited.”
The regulator said that during the exercise, it also identified product offerings/ packages from Globacom and Airtel that were below the Mobile Terminal Rate (MTR) of N6.40.
“It was therefore recommended that these packages should be taken off their network. The Commission would also need to acquire the tariff monitoring equipment in order to find an acceptable and lasting solution to facilitate a robust and effective tariff monitoring regime in ensuring that operator’s charges are within the approved tariff”, according to NCC.
Globacom also came under regulatory sanction over alleged non-compliance with advertisements and promotions guidelines as monitoring revealed that the Second National Operator did not obtain approval for one of its promos, tagged ‘TOP-UP AND SECURE A SEAT AT THE GLO CAF AWARDS CEREMONY”.
“Checks carried out by the department showed that no regulatory approval was obtained for this promo contrary to our guidelines. A letter was sent to Globacom on December 12, 2013 directing it to provide evidence of approval of the said promo on or before December 20, 2013”, according to the regulator.
According to NCC, “Globacom in its response stated that the advert was in line with its sponsorship of the Glo CAF awards event scheduled to take place in January. Be that as it may, Globacom was directed to stop the promo since the sponsorship did not exempt it from obtaining the necessary regulatory approval.”