From UMMULKHAIR AKIBU, Abuja
Dr Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami had on Thursday ordered the telecom operators to deactivate automatic voicemail service on all existing mobile lines in the country.
Dr Pantami said telcos were exploiting the consumers financially by putting them automatically on voicemail service instead of making it optional.
A statement by the minister’s spokesperson, Uwa Suleiman, quoted him as saying; ’The attention of the Honourable Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, has been drawn to the latest trend of financial exploitation by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) in the country, through the automatic activation of the Voicemail Service on their platforms. Based on recent reports reaching the office, the practice has gained momentum in recent times. “The Voicemail service should be accessed at the discretion of the subscriber and not by default.
The Honourable Minister finds it worrisome and totally unacceptable, that telecoms subscribers incur financial charges, for a service they are compelled to use by default. “Voicemail is not a popular service among mobile phone users in Nigeria, coupled with the language challenge among rural dwellers, who mostly do not understand the language deployed by these networks.
“In the light of this, Dr Pantami has issued a broad policy directive to the sector regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), to immediately ensure that issues regarding automatic voicemails are addressed on all existing phone lines and the subscribers, given the option of accessing the service via an activation code.
“It is our collective responsibility to ensure that the rights of consumers are protected, while providing a conducive business environment for Mobile Network Operators (MNOs), in line with global best practice.’’ But the Chairman of Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), Engr. Gbenga Adebayo said the voicemail issue was a regulatory issue and should not concern the minister. “The directive is unclear to us. The issue is a regulatory one and we don’t know why he should issue a directive. It is an issue NCC is capable of handling’’, Engr Adebayo said.