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Thursday 23rd March, 2023

Telecoms

Revised Complaints Categories & Service Level Agreements Aimed At Strengthening Consumer Protection- NCC

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Prof, Umar Danbatta, NCC Executive Vice Chairman

In a bid to achieve greater effectiveness in the telecoms sector and to strengthen the protection of telecoms consumers and other stakeholders, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) said it undertook a revision of the framework stipulating the processes for resolving consumer complaints arising from service delivery by telecoms operators.

The framework tagged: Complaints Categories and Service Level Agreements (CC/SLA), was revised by the Commission in November 2019 at a programme attended by representatives of telecoms operators, consumers and other consumer rights advocacy groups in the country.

Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, said: “The 2019 review of the CC/SLA, in collaboration with operators and other stakeholders, was essentially to strengthen effective and prompt resolutions of consumers complaints by reviewing the timelines, broaden and streamline complaint categories and establishing applicable sanctions on operators that fail to meet the timelines stated for resolving issues related to the services delivery to their consumers.”

In a statement signed by Dr Ikechukwu Adinde, NCC’s Director of Public Affairs, the Commission said that in the reviewed CC/SLA, with respect to the broad category of Quality of Service and Quality of Experience (QoS and QoE) in the data segment, when a telecom subscriber experiences fluctuation in service, such as instability in the Internet services, the subscriber shall be contacted by the service provider within four hours of reporting the incident and the disruption shall be restored within 72 hours.

The statement noted that “If the matter is escalated to the Commission, the consumer is expected to receive feedback within two hours, while the Commission ensures the issue is resolved within 48 hours. Additionally, the subscriber shall be offered an apology and the expiry date of his data bundle shall be extended by the number of days the disruption lasted.

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“Under the broad category, ‘Billing’, complaints connected to any unexplained change in account balance resulting in a drop in balance, due to overcharging subscriber’s account for calls, Short Messaging Services (SMS) and Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS), shall be resolved by the operator within 24 hours.

“Should there be a need by the subscriber to escalate the complaint to NCC, the Commission shall ensure the matter is resolved within 12 hours. The subscriber shall be notified of resolution and where applicable, compensated with five per cent of overcharged amount which is payable daily to the consumer for every 24hrs of default.

“Similarly, within the framework of QoS/QoE in the voice segment, the revised agreement stipulates that, when there is call interference or challenge with voice clarity, resulting in the inability of a subscriber to carry out an uninterrupted conversation, the subscriber shall receive a response from the service provider within four hours of reporting the incident and the service provider shall ensure the challenge is resolved within 72 hours.

“Should there be a basis for the subscriber to escalate the matter to NCC, the Commission shall revert to the subscriber within two hours of receiving the report and ensure that the matter is resolved within 48 hours in line with the Quality of Service (QoS) Regulations and the subscriber shall be communicated.”

The statement further noted that under the new CC/SLAs that have now come into force, in the case of Sales Promotion and Advertisement, when a subscriber does not receive (within the stipulated time) bonus or incentives won during promotions, the service provider shall resolve the matter within 12 hours of receiving the complaints, instead of 24 hours as stipulated in the hitherto existing categorisation and agreement.

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It added that should the matter be escalated to NCC, the Commission shall ensure it is resolved within six hours in line with the Guidelines on Advertisement and Promotions, noting that as in all cases, the subscriber shall be communicated on steps taken towards resolution of complaints.

“Similarly, in the expansive category of Call Centre/Customer Care, the NCC agreed with stakeholders that when a subscriber is unable to connect to Call Centre or Service Provider Help Line, the matter shall be treated by the Service Provider within four hours of receiving the report.

“Where the matter is escalated to the Commission, NCC shall ensure that the issue is resolved within two hours of receiving the complaints, and steps taken towards resolution shall be communicated to the subscriber in all circumstances,” the NCC said in the statement.

The Commission said that on matters connected to faulty terminals, such as defective devices that stifle a subscriber’s ability to use phones, modems, routers and related devices appropriately, the Commission said such incidents shall be resolved based on Terms and Conditions for all devices.

In the meantime, Prof Danbatta has stated that matters relating to Base Transceiver Stations (BTS), such as problems arising from installation and location of base stations, masts or towers, shall be resolved by the concerned operator(s) within the 48 hours, as stated in the revised CC/SLA.

He said that in case the Commission is notified by the affected consumer, the matter shall be referred, immediately to Commission’s Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Department, which shall ensure resolution of the matter within 48 hours and inform the complainant accordingly.

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Danbatta added that the CC/SLA document, which is available on the Commission’s website, contains 17 broad categories and about 90 subcategories, and enjoined all stakeholders, particularly the telecom consumers, to create the time to study the document in order to understand their rights and privileges.

 

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Telecoms

7 Months After Ministerial Objection, FG Removes 5% Excise Duty For Telecoms Sector

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L-R: Jacqueline Olowolayemo, Senior Administrative Manager, Mafab Communications Ltd.; Prof Umar Danbatta, Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer, Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, Hon. Minister of Communications and Digital Economy; Dr. Vincent Olatunji, National Commissioner/Chief Executive Officer, Nigeria Data Protection Bureau and Anas Galadima, Senior Manager, Public Affairs, MTN Nigeria, during a press briefing by the Presidential Review Committee on Excise Duty in the Digital Economy Sector in Abuja on Tuesday, March 21, 2023.

Seven months after the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami led objections to the proposed application of 5 per cent excise duty on Nigeria’s telecom sector, the Federal Government Tuesday officially announced the removal of excise duty for the telecom sub-sector of Nigeria’s Digital Economy Industry.

The removal of excise duty in the sub-sector, Digital TimesNG learnt, is in line with the recommendations of the Committee the Federal Government constituted to review the applicability of the Duty to the telecom sector which is considered already overburdened with taxation and sundry levies.

Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami, disclosed this good news on Tuesday at a press briefing organised to provide updates on the status of the 5 per cent excise duty, whose applicability to the telecom sector was objected to by the Minister in August 2022.

Recall that in response to this objection, President Muhammadu Buhari suspended the application of excise duty to the telecom sector and set up a Presidential Review Committee on Excise Duty in the Digital Economy Sector.

Pantami, who is the Chairman of the Committee, specifically set up for the purpose of reviewing the proposed excise duty in the telecom sector, said the Committee had carried out its national assignment and accordingly submitted its report to the President, justifying why the sector should be exempted.

The Minister said the Committee’s submissions can be summed up in three arguments put forward to justify why additional burden in form of taxes or any level should not be imposed on the telecom sector to prevent a reversal of the important contribution the sector is making to the growth of the Nigerian economy.

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“Our justifications are based on three premises: First, is the fact that operators in the telecoms sub-sector of the digital economy industry currently pay no fewer than 41 different categories of taxes, levies and charges; secondly, that telecoms have continued to be a major contributor to the Nigerian economy in terms of Gross Domestic Product Contribution (GDP).

“The third ground for contesting the Excise Duty in the telecom sector is the fact that, despite the increase in the cost of all factors of production across the sector, and naturally leading to increase in costs of products and services, telecom sector is the only sector where the cost of service has been stable and in many cases continued to go down over the past years and therefore, adding more burden will destroy the sector,” the Minister said.

Pantami also informed the gathering that the President, having looked into the arguments put forward by the Committee and relying on the provision of Section 5 of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution, as amended, has therefore, exempted the telecom sector from the list of sectors to pay the excise duty as stated in Finance Act of 2021 and other subsidiary legislations, all of which are not as superior as the Constitution which permits the President to grant such waiver.

“I am happy to report to you that President Muhammadu Buhari, has approved the exemption of the digital economy sector from the five per cent excise duty to be paid and this is because of the strength of the argument presented to him by the Committee that additional burden on telecom sector will increase the sufferings of Nigerians and that other sectors that are not making as much contribution to the economy should be challenged to do more and pay the 5 per cent excise duty.”

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The Minister assured Nigerians, who are telecom consumers, that the presidential exemption given to the telecom sector shall be sustained by the incoming administration as “the decision by the President is not about any political party or any administration but about Nigeria and welfare of Nigerian citizens.”

The Minister further noted that the Digital Economy Sector has continued to contribute significantly to the growth of the Nigerian economy, having contributed 14.07 per cent to the GDP in the first quarter of 2020; 17.79 per cent in the second quarter of 2021; and 18.44 per cent in the second quarter of 2022.

He said the sector has also increased its quarterly revenue generation for the government from N51 billion to over N480 billion, representing a growth of 594 per cent; while the cost of buying data has also reduced from N1,200 in 2019 to N350 presently, despite the increase in the cost of operations, including the energy challenge that has caused mobile network operators to power base stations with over 32,000 power generating to provide seamless services to their teeming consumers.

 

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Telecoms

2023 WCRD Theme, A Call To Examine Environmental Impact Of Telecom- Adewolu

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Mr. Adeleke Adewolu, NCC’s Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management

The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has said that the theme of this year’s World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD), which is “Empowering Consumers through Clean Energy Transition,” provides players in the telecommunication industry the opportunity to carefully examine the unintended side effects of the industry’s critical social infrastructure on the environment.

Mr. Adeleke Adewolu, NCC’s Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management (ECSM) stated this in his opening remarks at the celebration of the 2023 World Consumer Rights Day held at the NCC headquarters annex, in Abuja on Wednesday.

He said that the celebration is being pivoted around a theme that allows telecom service providers and stakeholders to design more environmentally sustainable service models that would enable them truly serve the consumer better.

Adewolu noted that the Nigerian telecoms industry today boasts of over 226 million voice customers and over 156 million Internet customers as of January 31, 2023, who leverage communications infrastructure for social interaction, health service, access to education, and banking, among others.

“As consumer volumes and service diversity continue to grow, network operators have to roll out more infrastructure for coverage in new, mostly rural areas, and for network expansion in already saturated urban markets.

“Emerging technologies like 5th Generation (5G) mobile services will also require more infrastructure. These infrastructure components are mostly powered by fossil fuels to ensure 100% availability,” he said.

To understand further, the environmental impact of these activities, Adewolu raised some posers for telecom stakeholders especially, the service providers at the event:

“Are there more environmentally conscious means by which we can power network infrastructure and reduce our carbon footprint? Telecoms infrastructure has helped to reduce other environment-impacting activities such as travel – can we quantify these benefits and do they offset the negative impacts?

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“Have we convinced everyone about the safety of electromagnetic emissions? Can we find a balance between environmentally-friendly network operations and cheaper services; or do we have to choose one over the other? How can we improve the quality of the environment through our network services and how can we grow public consciousness about responsible services using telecoms infrastructure?”

He challenged the stakeholders to find answers to these and other nagging questions.

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Telecoms

Danbatta Outlines NCC’s Initiatives Aimed At Protecting The Nigerian Environment

The EVC promised that in the course of the year, the Commission’s Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) will sensitize telecom consumers about these interventions aimed at making the environment better for all of humanity.

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Nigeria’s telecom regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has in addition to the policy on renewable energy in the telecom sector, put in place laudable initiatives geared towards protecting the Nigerian environment, Digital Times Nigeria can report.

For instance, the Commission has in recent years introduced a regulatory framework on infrastructure sharing and collocation among the licensees which the Commission admitted, has encouraged operators to fully maximise their already-deployment infrastructure.

Speaking at the 2023 World Consumer Rights Day celebration held in Abuja, NCC’s Executive Vice Chairman (EVC), Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta pointed out that by sharing infrastructure, some operators do not need to entirely build a telecoms site in an area where another operator had deployed one.

“With the challenge of inadequate public electricity supply in Nigeria, telecom companies rely on diesel-powered generators to keep their telecom sites live round-the-clock. A regulatory framework such as infrastructure sharing, and collocation is helping in this regard and the Commission has recorded appreciable adoption of this regulation,” Danbatta elaborated.

Another regulatory initiative embarked upon by the NCC for a clean Nigerian environment is the Commission’s Type Approval Regulations, which promotes the NCC’s official authorisation prior to the use or supply of an Equipment Type in Nigeria.

“Our Type Approval of devices factors in energy efficiency, among others, which ensures a reduction of power consumption. It also ensures that Radio Frequency devices used in Nigeria operate effectively, without causing harmful interference and otherwise comply with the Commission’s technical requirement prior to importation or marketing,” the NCC boss said.

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Yet, the NCC-organised annual tech innovation competitions for young innovators in Nigeria, also make considerations for inventions that address the challenges of renewable energy.

The NCC EVC noted at the 2023 World Consumer Rights Day celebration in Abuja, that some of the entries submitted in this regard are in the process of being commercialized as the innovators are seeking investors to make their discoveries available to the public.

“The Commission will continue to support research and innovations that contribute to transitioning to renewable energy sources,” he said.

Also connected to NCC’s regulatory efforts in dealing with issues of sanitizing the Nigerian environment were its efforts in 2019 to commence activities that will result in the formulation of a Regulation on E-Waste in Nigeria.

It is obvious like the EVC noted, that today, the global concern for the regulation of e-waste is two-pronged. First, is the acute awareness of the hazardous properties and the potential risk to human health, as well as their capacity to degrade the environment.

Secondly, is the business case and vast potential for wealth creation in recycling e-waste into more benign and productive uses.

But in line with its regulatory mandate and to keep pace with efforts at managing e-waste-related issues, in a manner that reduces cases of indiscriminate burning of electronic devices with the potential for increased carbon emission in the environment, the Commission has been working, with other relevant agencies, to develop Regulations on E-waste.

The Regulations, according to Danbatta, will represent a holistic intervention aimed at providing clarity and delimiting the responsibilities of various stakeholders in the e-waste value chain within the telecommunications industry, adding that while the proposed Regulations are industry-specific, they, nonetheless, key into other initiatives at national and international levels.

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The EVC promised that in the course of the year, the Commission’s Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) will sensitize telecom consumers about these interventions aimed at making the environment better for all of humanity.

“The CAB will carry this out as part of its Consumer Education mandate, with a significant part of this effort dedicated to providing information that equips the consumer to thrive in a world that has embraced digital finance.

“Through its outreach programmes, which have continued to re-tool to reflect existing realities and trends, the CAB will use its consumer-centric initiatives such as the Telecom Consumer Parliament (TCP), Telecom Consumer Town Hall on Radio (TCTHR), Telecom Consumer Conversations (TCC) as well as social media platforms and Consumer Portal to sensitize consumers on how renewable energy benefits them and their role in achieving industry transition to it in the interest of the environment,” Danbatta pledged.

He informed his audience that the Bureau will develop and produce various consumer education materials such as Flexi and Roll-up Banners, and Handbills, and update its Consumer Handbook to include the message about renewable energy.

Danbatta assured that as the global community celebrates World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) 2023, the theme of this year will form part of the consideration of the Commission’s regulatory mandate and reaffirmed the Commission’s commitment to responsibly use the world’s resources, including protecting the environment by supporting the industry, to transition to renewable energy.

 

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