Illegal deductions appear to still be the order of the day as fleeced subscribers on GSM mobile networks in Nigeria groan. My ears are full from listening to frustrated, angry subscribers complain about their network operators harassing them with gimmicks like flash SMS messages to trick them into unwanted subscriptions.
How Flash SMS Messages Work
A flash SMS message is an SMS message that is not received in your phone’s messaging app, but pops-up on your phone’s screen without any warning. Usually, you are in the middle of an activity and you tap on it without intending to. Presto! You are suddenly subscribed to a silly game, a lottery, dial tune, ringtone or some other stuff. A small amount from your airtime is taken, sometimes weekly or monthly.
Fleeced Subscribers Cry Out
My WhatsApp has strings of messages in which users regularly ask me what can be done to stop these activities. Subscribers are wondering what the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) is doing about it. I have reproduced below some of the complaints that I have received. I have left them unedited:
Illegal Deductions Complaint One
*MTN must stop this robbery and criminal act. Yesterday, i just got an sms from MTN GAME+ I have never subscribed to such. The annoying part was that they debited me N50 and claiming they have successfully registered me to their useless game where i can download games. for what??? Then went ahead to send me password and username and that if i do not want to continue, i should send STOP to 2200 which i did and they unsubscribed me Now, imagine with 68 million subscribers, and they send this to all of them, debiting 50 Naira, thats a whopping N3,400,000,000 (N3.4b) for what??? Imagine doing this for one year?? Anyway, i tried calling the number that have been flying around claiming its NCC number to report them, one toll free number 622 and till now., it hasn’t gone through This criminal act MUST stop. I think one has to sue these guys soon. Maybe its time i do that*
Illegal Deductions Complaint Two
*Airtel did that to me, when I try to send the stop to the number it refused to go , then I call the customer care & shouted at them ,u know what? they returned the 50 naira and removed the subscription. which means they are doing it deliberately*
The NCC Contact Centre
The NCC had recently set up a Contact Centre for subscribers to call toll-free, regardless of the mobile network they are on. The NCC contact centre number is 622,.
While some subscribers have used it and testify that it works, with the defaulting network issuing refunds with apologies, others complain that the contact care number has been unreachable from their lines.
The Cycle Continues
The cycle of illegal deductions continue despite the existence of the NCC contact centre. Is there no way that NCC can set up a system in which a network operator that gets a certain number of complaints of illegal deductions per quarter gets penalised in some way? How else can subscribers get redress when unable to reach the contact centre? Any suggestions?