By Meletus EZE
The Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) has assured telecom consumers that it will stop masking of calls by service providers.
The NCC Director of Consumer Affairs Bureau, Mrs Felicia Onwuegbuchulam, gave the assurance on Thursday in Ogbomoso at the 100th edition of the Consumer Outreach Programme (COP).
“ With respect to Call Masking/Refilling, the commission is working seriously to abate the menace of this ugly development,” she said.
According to the director, the commission will also deploy appropriate technology as a strategy to combat the menace.
Onwuegbuchulam added that NCC was working on the issuance of Direction to Multi-National Organisations (MNOs) to use all technical means in halting the use of their networks for call masking and SIM boxing activities.
She said the commission was creating awareness on call masking through different social platforms and through various outreach programmes to educate consumers and encourage them to report cases to NCC.
“We are embarking on continuous compliance, monitoring and enforcement activities to detect victims of call masking and investigate channels used to commit the illegality.
“Also, the commission is in the process of choosing the best form from a list of technology solutions used in other countries to block the devices as well as track and apprehend the culprits,” she added.
Onwuegbuchulam said that the commission would tighten Subscribers Identity Module (SIM) registration process across all networks to reduce the availability of SIMs for SIM-boxing.
The director also noted that the commission had been inundated with various complaints of unsolicited text messages and calls as well as refusal to roll over unused data at the expiration of data bundle by service providers.
According to Onwuegbuchulam, the commission as consumer-centric institution, developed 2442 DND Short Code to solve unsolicited text messages and calls.
She added that the commission had directed service providers to roll over unused data for a period of time ranging from one day to seven days.
The director said the commission had developed a 622 toll-free line through which consumers can lodge complaints for any service issues to the NCC.
“I need to emphasise that failure of the operators to comply with the directives attract appropriate penalties and sanctions,” she said.
In his remarks, Executive Commissioner, Stakeholders Management,Mr Sunday Dare, said the COP was to educate telecom consumers and other stakeholders on the contemporary issues generating interest in the industry.
He also said the forum would serve as a feedback mechanism for the commission in making regulatory interventions for the benefit of the commission and the service providers.
“ At the Nigerian Communications Commission, the telecom consumers are the target beneficiaries of all our activities which make them enjoy primary focus in terms of ensuring that they get good quality service, value for money spent, timely and fair redress of complaints from unwholesome practices.
“The theme, “Using Information and Education as Tools for Consumer Empowerment and Protection, ” has been carefully chosen to reflect one of the cardinal objectives of the Nigerian Communications Commission,” he added.
Dare noted that through empowerment, telecom consumers were fortified with necessary tools to be protected from market exploitation and to make rational and informed decision when making choices of services.
“Consumer information and education is identified by the commission as one of the most cost- effective mechanism that provides and guarantees consumer empowerment and education.
“Besides serving as a proactive way of protecting consumers from making wrong choices, it also serves as a preventive measure that protects consumers from being exploited and against fraud,” he added.
According to him, one of the fundamental rights of the telecom consumer is the right to be informed and educated.
“It is only through information and education that the consumers can be empowered to take the right decisions, especially when their rights as consumers are trampled upon,” the commissioner said.