Nigeria’s telecommunications industry has continued to record tremendous achievements over the past decade, after the successful liberalisation and deregulation of the sector. The country’s telecoms industry has attracted over $25 billion in Foreign Direct Investments in the last 10 years. With about 121 million mobile subscriptions, Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, is regarded as the largest mobile telephone market on the continent. But, as the telecoms industry expands, Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) and other business owners are not relenting in their efforts to lure more subscribers. One of the most popular marketing channels been exploited currently is telemarketing.
In view of the ease with which these messages can be sent across, mobile subscribers are inundated with unsolicited text messages from the networks and Value Added Service (VAS) providers. Though, Short Messaging Service (SMS) are a valuable means of communications, they can also constitute a nuisance, especially when sent without the receiver’s consent. This can be regarded as spam SMS. These messages are sent to millions of subscribers at very odd hours, in quick succession, but more disturbing is the irrelevance of these messages. One wonders if these operators take into consideration privacy issues when bombarding subscribers with unsolicited messages.
This development has already drawn the indignation of subscribers across the country. Telecoms consumers have expressed discontent over the unavailability of options to opt out in any way. A typical example of these messages often reads, “The power of colours! Analyse what your favourite colour means or says about you, by texting your colour e.g white to 33550”.
Interestingly, this worrying development is however not particular to one operator. Some subscribers have taken to social media to vent their frustration, with many believing that the regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is perhaps keeping a deaf ear to their complaints.
They say the NCC is yet to take a firm stance on the development despite issuing certain guidelines that have not been respected. Only recently, the Commission warned VAS providers to restrict sending of unsolicited messages on the networks to between 8.00 am and 8.00 pm. This move by the telecoms regulator is rather belated, inadequate and not decisive. It has however not resolved the issue of unsolicited messages.
While sending and receiving unsolicited messages are not peculiar to Nigeria alone, the practice is regulated in countries like the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States (US).
The NCC, telecom operators and VAS providers should not take mobile subscribers in the country for granted by permitting this reckless infringement of their privacy and their right to receive or reject certain communication. Relevant Consumer protection agencies should equally rise up and address this issue of unsolicited text messages.
We believe that in a free market economy consumers should be allowed to exercise their power of choice and any trend that endangers the exercise of such power should be discouraged.