The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has reported that over eight million telecommunication services subscribers were illegally connected by telecom operators for value added services (VAS) without their consent or knowledge.
The industry regulator discovered the illegal act of the operators after conducting in last December an audit exercise on forceful mass activations of telecoms subscribers into various value added services.
The commission gave these facts in its latest enforcement activities’ report covering 45 VAS providers that had over 65 percent forceful subscriptions.
The NCC stated: “We identified over 8,443,367 illegal mass activations in the last audit exercise and established the fact that these practices of unauthorised mass activations of subscribers were widespread and rampant in the telecoms industry.”
According to the commission, the exercise was conducted following various complaints by subscribers that the Do-Not-Disturb facility introduced by it had not stopped the Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) from illegally charging them for unsolicited services.
It would be recalled that the industry regulator had in May last year issued a directive that Mobile Network Operators should desist from forcefully subscribing users to telecoms services or face sanctions.
This is even as it hinted of its investigations of sundry allegations on illegal deduction of airtime tariffs.
The commission, in the latest report, indicated that the audit team analysed subscribers’ call detail records from MNOs and subscription logs from VAS providers covering two years, leading to the findings that substantial percentage of VAS services were not voluntarily subscribed for.
The audit report clarifies further: “The audit team also found that some providers had implemented disingenuous mechanisms by which a large number of innocent consumers were forcefully subscribed to VAS platforms, leading to a regular deduction of their airtime without their consent”
In view of the audit findings, the industry regulator assured subscribers that erring MNOs would be compelled refund illegally deducted airtime charges to affected consumers as part of the sanctions necessary for such regulatory infractions.
For instance, the commission threatened to impose appropriate sanctions on the erring telcos, including suspension or de-commissioning of some VAS platforms and services to protect subscribers from such abuses.