Consumer Protection: Need for Contract between the consumer and the service provider

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It is common knowledge that internet service providers in Nigeria – and especially mobile internet service providers – boast of fantastic broadband speeds available on their platforms, but subscribers hardly ever get to experience anything close to those speeds. Manytimes, the actual speeds experienced by consumers is not even broadband at all.

Managing Consultant of Telecom Answers Associates, founder of The CYBERSCHUUL, and publisher of CyberschuulNews.com, Mr. Titi Omo-Ettu, presented a paper at the Nigerian Stakeholders Telecom Summit December 2013 in which he addressed this issue and made recommendations.

Titi Omo-Ettu

In his paper, Titi Omo-Ettu submitted that there must be a Contract between every consumer and every service provider, such that the Consumer can seek redress for any injury or failure by the service provider to fulfil the terms of the contract.

This brings to mind ads for mobile internet services by various telcos. In those ads, the telco may brag about 42Mbps broadband speeds and use this to entice consumers. Then in very fine print at the bottom of the ad is a statement that says the service is provided on a best effort basis. The million naira question is, Who protects the Consumer? Is it NCC, is it CPC or is it The Law? Mr. Omo-Ettu submits that it should be the Law, while the NCC can serve as a facilitator.

In December of last year, I had a discussion with Mr. Omo-Ettu on the subject, and we are agreed that the idea of providing service to a paying subscriber on “best effort basis” is a cop-out and should not be allowed to continue. A service provider should be able to guarantee the consumer a certain speed, say a minimum speed of 5Mbps 95% of the time. This will be a contract between the subscriber and the service provider. The consumer knows exactly what he is paying for in terms of speed and reliability (not just data allocation). Thus, where the service provider defaults, the consumer can take action.

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Mr. Omo-Ettu also added that the process for seeking redress also needs to be made less cumbersome, and the service contract be made more enforceable rather than the regulator stopping at fighting the quality of service war only from its own observatory and on behalf of Consumers.

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