CONSUMER HORIZON

GSM@20: Stakeholders Set For Dialogue On Telecoms Consumer Protection

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By Angeline Mgbele, Correspondent Abuja

Critical stakeholders in Nigeria are slated to participate in an industry-wide  summit aimed at addressing salient issues affecting over 200 million telecom corporate and individual consumers, as Nigeria marks 20 years of Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) revolution.

Tagged Roundtable Conversation on Telecom Consumers Series, the thematic focus of the summit will centre around ‘Nigeria’s Deregulated Telecom Sector @ 20:  Addressing Critical Issues on Consumer Protection’.

The forum scheduled to hold virtually on Thursday, November 18, 2021 by 10:00 a.m. in compliance with the COVID-19 pandemic prevention measures, is expected to drive this lofty agenda though the power of Organized Consumer Advocacy Bodies and industry regulators.

Digital Mobile Licences (DML) were issued by the Nigerian government, through the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in 2001 and this development has, in the last two decades, transformed the entire national lifestyle for government, businesses and individuals with greater impact on socio-economic development of the country.

Telecoms consumers remain critical stakeholders in the journey of Nigeria’s digital transformation as they face certain challenges bordering on accessibility, availability and affordability of telecoms services just as the issue of consumer protection continues to take the front burner.

In keeping with the centrality of  the  consumer in the stakeholder mapping of telecoms industry, Business Metrics, a leading media and consultancy firm, has identified the need to advance discussion on how issues of consumer protection and consumer satisfaction can be advanced as the sector begins the journey into the next decade.

According to the organisers, the rationale behind the event is to adopt a novel approach of improving services using consumerism as a veritable tool. Arguably, telecoms is one of the sectors in the country with the highest number of consumers, conservatively estimated at over 200 million.

“In the last two decades following the full liberalisation of the sector, more than US$70 billion Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs) and Local Investment has been pumped into infrastructure expansion and other operations by telecoms licensees. This, in turn, has helped in delivering services to the consumers, whose spending on telecoms services have bolstered the growth of the sector,” says Publicity Lead of the forum, Mh’Saheed Olaniran.

According to him, with the growing numbers of both individual and enterprise consumers of telecoms services, a key aspect of concern is always the consumer-operator relationship with emphasis on value of money spent on telecoms services and products, as all consumer satisfaction metrics have remained qualitatively and quantitatively on a low ebb.

“When assessed, the result of a poll once conducted by the Nigerian Communications Commission showed that 88.5 per cent of subscribers answered in the negative when asked if they were satisfied with services received from their service providers. Only 9.16 per cent were satisfied while 2.33 per cent were indifferent,” Olaniran said.

In the light of such disturbing discovery, Olaniran said “the forthcoming event is meant to address the issue of quality experience and network expansion, not just for the present but also for coming years when demand for heavy consumption of telecoms services must have exploded.”

Meanwhile, Managing Editor of Business Metrics Omobayo Azeez hinted that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof. Isa Pantami and the Executive Vice Chairman/Chief Executive Officer(EVC/CEO) of the Nigerian Communications Commission, Prof. Umar Danbatta are expected to be the Guest of Honour and give keynote address respectively at the dialogue forum.

Participants at the conversation forum include the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC); Manufacturers Association of Nigeria (MAN); Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria (CIBN); Nigeria Governors’ Forum (AGF); Association of Telecommunications Companies of Nigeria (ATCON); Association of Licensed Telecoms Operators of Nigeria (ALTON); Alliance for Affordable Internet (A4AI) and Chief Executives of telecom companies.

Others are the National Association of Telecommunications Subscribers (NATCOMS); the Association of Telephone, CableTV and Internet Subscribers of Nigeria (ATCIS); Ogun State Chamber of Commerce and Industry (OSCCI); Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI); Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI); Gombe State Chamber of Commerce and Industry (GSCCI); Kano State Consumer Protection; Lagos State Consumer Protection; Rivers State Consumer Protection; among others.

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