Columns

WE AND GSM SERVICE PROVIDERS: NCC MUST HEAR THIS With Mazi Nnamdi Nwigwe

The regulatory body that oversees the activities of the GSM (Global System for Mobile Communications) service providers, the Nigerian Communications Commission, NCC, must be commended for its efforts so far in taming some of the marketing gimmicks of the cluster of service providers that had been a pain in the neck of consumers.
In very recent times, apparently as a result of the intervention of NCC following complaints by patrons, the GSM companies have stopped the insufferable nuisance of waking Nigerians up at midnight and early hours with daily alerts that announce one product or the other.
Obviously the often reported heavy fines imposed on the service providers are having an effect. Never mind that the credits they are asked to refund their clients hardly reach them.
But the marketing personnel do not go to bed and relax after one or two of their strategies are stopped by NCC.
They go straight back to the drawing board to invent new methods of further harassing their captive clients and this is an area the NCC might wish to look into.
In the first place, the offer of “free” trials of some of their services has turned out to be a rip off on trusting Nigerians.
There are really no free days for trial because as soon as one subscribes for the usually five days’ test, a message comes immediately “thanking” the client for subscribing.
Let me retell this experience of mine from one of the providers:
“Great quotes can be the fuel to your fire when things are getting tough. To get Quotes FREE for five days that are guaranteed to lift spirits, send MOTIV to 385000.”
An examination of the text message showed that the proposal was sent on April 17, 2014 at 07:44:48pm. I subscribed immediately.
Two days later, a reply came saying: “Thank you for subscribing to Motivational Quotes Pack. You will now get Motivational Tips on your Mobile N75/wk. To opt out, send Stop MOTIV to 38500.”
This was on April 19, 2014 at 12:51:56pm.
In a transparent business deal, the client would ordinarily expect to enjoy the quotes for five days free before confirming his subscription or otherwise.
And the five days from April 19 should be April 24. But lo and behold, on April 25, after offering only four quotes on 19, 20, 21 & 23 April the Message Centre of the GSM provider sent a text saying: “Your Motivational Quotes Pack has been renewed for another seven days/N75, enjoy the service. To opt out send stop MOTIV to 38500.” Sender 34500; 25 April 2014; 10:43:30am
This sounded funny and deceitful as the five days “free” trials had only just expired. The subscription, as a result was immediately stopped.
One had hoped that this request to discontinue would take effect after the seven days duration of the “renewed” subscription.
But again came a prompt reply. “You have been unsubscribed from the Motivational Pack. To subscribe again, send MOTIV to 38500 at N75/week.” Sender 38500, 25 – April – 2014, 11:10:55am.
Nothing was said about the N75 that had been deducted for the “renewed” subscription and no further quotes were received.
We are now talking of a total of N150 collected under false pretences in the name of marketing.
Can you imagine the number of millions of Nigerians that are similarly duped?
There are a few disturbing issues in the above example.
First, the introductory proposal said nothing of the cost of the service but one could reasonably assume that such information would be given at the expiry of the trial period when the client would now decide whether to go ahead and subscribe or not.
Secondly, an amount of N75 was taken upfront within the period that was supposed to be for “free five days trial.”
On the automatic “renewal” after only four days, another N75 was taken to cover the next “seven days.”
When the subscription was stopped, service also stopped automatically even though it had already been paid for in advance.
This is pure deceit, if not outright fraud.
Another example. During the World Cup Soccer Finals that ran from June 12, 2014 to July 13, 2014 in Brazil, it was very natural that many Football fans would want to be kept abreast of developments via their GSM Handsets.
Now, by Sunday July 13, 2014, the last day of the games, there was this text message: Your Subscription to the Football News SMS Service has been successfully renewed. Your subscription will run for 5 days. To optout, text STOP to 30047.” Time 04:42:34am on 13 – July – 2014.
When requested on same day to STOP, a reply promptly came saying:
“Please confirm your unsubscription for FOOTBALL NEWS reply with 1.” Sent 13 – July – 2014; 04:46:02am
On confirmation, a final reply came: “Your subscription to the FOOTBALL NEWS Service has been deactivated successfully. To resubscribe, SMS CF to 30047.” Time of sending 07:21:02am on
13 – July – 2014.
All communication between me and the service provider was the same day. Nothing was said about the amount already taken when subscription was “successfully renewed.”
These data are from one single consumer. How many Nigerian customers of these GSM providers are being ripped off every day? This is a case NCC should expeditiously investigate and cause a stop to be effected.
One last complaint is the number of proposals that a customer receives in one day.
A recent recording by this writer revealed that in a single day, between 9.11am and 10.15pm there were four proposals of one service or the other.
On another day, within a period of just two hours, four messages were received.
This is sheer harassment that should be curtailed.

About the author

Christian Voice