In the first series to this article, the concepts of consumers and consumer protection was explained. The legal regime of the applicable laws in Nigeria on consumer protection was also discussed. In this series, we will further examine a few of the laws regulating the industry on consumer protection and the rights of a telecommunications consumer.
1. NIGERIAN COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION ACT 2003
The Nigerian Communications Commission ("NCC" or "the Commission"), as the regulator of the telecommunications industry is empowered to ensure the 'protection and promotion of the interest of consumers against unfair practices including, but not limited to matters relating to tariffs and charges for and the availability and quality of communication services, equipment and facilities'.2 It also has the duty to promote 'fair competition in the industry and protection of communication services and facilities providers from misuse of market power or anti- competitive and unfair practices by other service or facilities provider or equipment suppliers'.3
Section 105 allows the NCC to use its powers to resolve consumer complaints, especially in relation to customer service and protection and Quality of Service (QoS) through its approved procedures or guidelines4 for the making, receipt and handling of consumer complaints regarding the activities of the operators, "provided that the licensee's dispute resolution procedures shall first be exhausted by the consumer without resolution of the complaint before presentation of the complaint to the commission". Thus, this process can only be activated when the service provider's dispute resolution procedure has been exhausted by the consumer.
The licensees are required to publish their tariff rates to customers but not permitted to impose tariffs/charges as costs for the provision of any service unless approved by the NCC.5 The issue however is that although these licensees publish their tariffs, the subscribers are still over-charged and the operators blame it on overrides in their systems. These over-charges are usually not refunded and in a bid to get the refund, the subscribers contact the operator, and run into communication challenges with the call representative. In the end, most customers abandon the complaint out of frustration and are compelled to recharge their phones again, in order to maintain vital contact with loved ones and operate their various businesses.
2. NIGERIAN COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION QUALITY OF SERVICE REGULATIONS 20126
Under its enabling statute,7 the NCC is empowered to make and publish regulations8 for the sector. By section 4(1)(b) of the NC Act, the NCC is also enabled to make regulations on the tariffs, fees, charge rates, fines and general Quality of Service (QoS) provided by the telecoms operators. The NCC exercising its powers under section 70 of the NC Act published the QoS regulations which identified minimum QoS standards and associated measurements, reporting and record keeping tasks, pursuant to section 104(a) of the Act.9 The aim of this regulation was to identify the service deficiencies, improve in the QoS and to encourage or direct appropriate actions.10 By section 2, the regulation of 2012 was further enabled, amongst other functions, to:
- ensure the protection and promotion of the interests of consumers against unfair practices including matters relating to tariffs and charges, the availability and quality of communications services, equipment and facilities;
- improve service quality by identifying service deficiencies and by encouraging, enforcing, effecting or requiring appropriate changes and solutions;
- maintain service quality, while recognizing environmental and operating conditions;
- make available information that will help customers make an informed choice of services and service provider;
- improve the operation and performance of interconnected networks; and
The NCC has in recent times, set QoS benchmarks for mobile services to be complied with by mobile operators, as well as Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) for the telecoms operators to adhere to. In the benchmarks quoted by the NCC, the mobile operators are expected to resolve all consumer problems/complaints speedily, and this is currently fixed at an average of 95%.11 However, the question of the frequency of these complaints should be visited. The focus should be on ensuring that customer complaints are less frequent and not in the speedy resolution of these complaints.
1 Associate; Dispute Resolution Department, SPA Ajibade & Co., Lagos.
2 Nigerian Communications Commission Act, Section 4(i).
3 Ibid, Section 4(f) and (m).
4 An example of one of these guidelines is the Dispute Resolution Guidelines of 2004.
5 Nigerian Communications Commission Act, Section 108(3).
6 S.I. No. 3 of 2012.
7 The Nigerian Communications Commission Act Cap N9, L.F.N. 2004 and the Nigerian Communications Act No. 19 of 2003.
8 The Nigerian Communications Commission Act Cap N9, L.F.N. 2004 , Section 4(1)(o) and section 104(a).
9 The Nigerian Communications Commission Quality of Service Regulation 2006, Part 1, para. 1. This regulation has however been revised in 2012.
10 Ibid, para 2.
11 https://www.ncc.gov.ng/technology/standards/qos#commercial-benchmarks Accessed: 4th July 2018.
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