Consumer Rights Protection Day: Protecting Nigeria’s Telecom Subscribers

Channels Television  
Updated March 15, 2014
Sunrise Consumer Advocates
L-R: Deolu Ogunbanjo and Sola Salako

The Founder of the Consumer Advocacy Foundation of Nigeria, Sola Salako, said that Nigerian subscribers remain highly frustrated even after many years of the GSM technology in Nigeria.

Executive Secretary of the Consumer Rights Project, Onu Uche, blamed the situation on the general lackadaisical attitude of Nigerians and the lack of laws to protect Nigerian consumers. He commended the Lagos State Government for passing the Consumer Protection Law, which he said was a step in the right direction.

Sunrise Consumer Onu
Executive Secretary of the Consumer Rights Project, Onu Uche,

Both were guests of Sunrise on Channels Television in a special interview to mark the Global ‘Consumer Rights Protection Day’.

Salako admitted that the challenges faced by Nigerian telephone users were global but she believed that the gaps for exploitation were wider in Nigeria than it was in many other countries. She said that most of the laws were ancient as they cannot cater to the Information Technology world that has become an integral part of the country’s economy and the people’s lifestyle.

National President of the National Association of Telecom Subscribers, Deolu Ogunbanjo, who was also on the programme, said that the regulators were trying in the sense that they were beginning to introduce features that make the subscribers more comfortable. He cited the number portability introduced by the Nigeria Communication Commission which allows the user to choose as laudable.

He, however, noted that more still needed to be done, as the subscribers remain victims of many issues like bad service, hidden charges, irregular billings and many more.

The theme for the 2014 Consumer Rights Protection Day was “Fix Our Phones Right” and this explains why the discussion focused on the Nigerian telecom sector.

Educating Nigerian subscribers about their rights was also identified as one of the major factors to be sorted out. Salako believed that the idea that Nigerians do not know their rights was wrong as they knew how to complain. She said that the major challenge was that Nigerians grumble rather than channel their complaints through the right medium.

Ogunbanjo added that “when there is an issue you complain first to the operator through their customer care line and then they refer them to the website for further pursuant of their rights” but he asked, “how many Nigerians have access to the computer?”

He called for a new system whereby Nigerians are able to make their complaints via the SMS service and also asked for the enforcement of the right for telecom users to have access to their call records.

Mr Uche advised Government and telecom operators to come up with policies that would ensure that the subscribers’ welfare is protected. He noted that the subscriber is always on the receiving end of polices they make and therefore should be considered before they introduce any new ideas.

Ogunbanjo noted that Nigerian telecom subscribers have lost about 730billion Naira to poor quality of service, and for the sake of patronage it is not too much for the telecom providers to give back at least 5,000 Naira every year as “we are patronising them and keeping them in business.”

Salako was of the opinion that customer service must first be improved, as it is not right for anyone to be kept on the line while trying to lay complaints, as that is frustrating. She also said that it should be made a law that for every credit loaded there would be a percentage bonus added, in order to make up for all the instances of poor services suffered by the subscriber and this should be so until services improve in the country.