Monday , January 17 2022

Senate goes tough on GSM operators as drop calls increase

…accuse Telcos of defrauding Subscribers

The Senate has lashed out heavily on GSM operators in Nigeria over increasing rate of drop calls in the country.

During a public hearing, the Senate has accused Telecommunications Network Operators in Nigeria of robbing subscribers of their hard earned money which is now running into billions of Naira.

The public hearing, tagged: “The increasing rate of drop calls and other unwholesome practices by Telecommunications Network Operators in Nigeria” was organized by the Senate Committees on Communication and Trade and Investment, chaired by Senator Oluremi Tinubu (Lagos Central).

The public hearing was held sequel to a resolution of the Senate last July mandating the two committees to jointly investigate the allegations of cheating through drop calls by the communications network operators.

Dropped call rate is the fraction of the telephone calls which are cut off before the speaking parties finish their conversation.

Declaring open the forum, the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan said the GSM service providers in the country have shortchanged their customers through drop calls for quite a while.

In his reaction, the Senate President that it is wrong for Nigerians to be made to pay for calls which did not connect. Nigerians have lost billions of naira deducted from their wallets on dropped calls.

He fumed that most of the telecommunication companies can’t do what they are doing to Nigerians in their home countries.

As a result, Lawan charged the improve their services and refund to their customers money which they paid on drop calls or leave the country.

He lamented that all service providers are complicit in the rising cases of drop calls in the country for which they charge Nigerians.

“The drop calls shortchange consumers. To me, it’s a very serious issue and we have been with it since as far as I can remember. We have been shortchanged for a long time. We consider this development unacceptable.

“We mandated our committees to thoroughly investigate the issue of drop calls. This is in the interest of the people we represent. And even the people who only come to Nigeria either for tourism or business or whatever.

“Whoever will provide better services, I think Nigerians will be better advised to use that service whatever it is.

“And whoever is not, Nigerians should abandon such a service provider. But at the moment all the service providers are involved in this drop calls.

“We pay for drop calls and drop calls are not services provided. For service providers, I am sorry I have to be brash and I have to be blunt, this is cumulative frustration of services not provided by telcos for years.

“The most painful part it is you don’t do it anywhere else. You do it in this country. We suffer. MTN in South Africa don’t do what they do here. Or even in Ghana.

“But in Nigeria, maybe because we are too fatalistic by saying maybe that is what God wishes, meanwhile somebody pockets billions.

“Please, let this be a journey for us in Government representing the people and you, service providers, business institutions or organizations come together and resolve this issue. It is high time.

“Going forward, it’s not only making it better, but what happened to all the money that we paid for no service rendered. I think the committee should insist on what happens to all the money people in this country paid for no service. Other countries give money back. But here you denied us and you don’t give one Kobo.

“So this public hearing is not going to be like the other previous ones. Everybody complain of drop calls except the operators because that is booming business for them.

“And the kind of market that we have in Nigeria, is such that you don’t have this market anywhere in the world. When a Nigerian will have three lines, yet we don’t get the service that we paid for,” Lawan said.

The Senate President also said that the National Assembly would henceforth be tough on the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to ensure that they carry out their regulatory functions effectively.

“I know some of you will say well, we have heard this before, honestly we are going to be tough with the NCC.

“NCC should sit up and do what it is expected to do – to regulate properly because we have oversight function on NCC.

“But you (telcos) you are in business. If you are tired of what is going on I think we will insist on what may appear an uphill task.”

Senator Tinubu in her opening remarks noted that the Nigerian telecoms industry has greatly excelled over the last decade with impressive statistics to show for it.

She how lamented that the achievements in the industry have been greatly hampered by the worsening quality of service by operators.

She lamented that difficulties are often encountered in making telephone calls and “where the call eventually goes through, the caller is either unable to hear the receiver or vice versa.”

She insisted that in spite of a call being unsuccessful, the caller’s account still get charged.

Senator Tinubu said: “The achievements of the industry in the last 18 years are burdened and dwarfed by worsening Quality of Service (QOS) especially noticeable in the increasing rate of drop calls and other unwholesome practices by telecommunications network Operators.

“This and other unsatisfactory consumer experiences have made the issue a cause for concern.

“Difficulties are often encountered in making telephone calls and where the call eventually goes through, the caller is either unable to hear the receiver or vice versa.

“In spite of the call being unsuccessful, the caller’s account still gets charged. In addition, call credit often disappears from the subscribers phones without justifiable explanation.”

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She further noted that “it is obvious that while the subscriber base across the networks is growing at a geometric proportion, service providers have not adequately invested in infrastructure in order to stem the tide of drop calls.

“As direct representatives of the Nigerian people, it will be absurd to fold our arms and allow this situation continue unabated.

“Certainly, all involved, starting from the operators, must confront the issue of drop calls owing to its negative impact on National Security and our nation’s economy.

“It is my belief therefore, that it is instructive for both the regulator and operators; and of course all relevant stakeholders, to strive to resolve this challenge of drop calls so as to justify the confidence of subscribers who keep them in business.”

Stakeholders that attended the public hearing included the Minister of Works and Housing, Babatunde Raji Fashola, Executive Vice Chairman of the NCC, Umar Dambata, Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Council, Babatunde Irukera, and the representatives of the Standards Organization of Nigeria (SON), MTN, Airtel, Glo and 9Mobile, among others.

Most of the stakeholders blamed insecurity, vandalism, community antagonism, multiple fiber cuts, double taxation and road construction works for the drop calls sometimes experienced by subscribers.

All the representatives of service providers in their presentation said that drop calls are not usually charged by the networks.

It should be recalled three years ago, NCC said the commission will sanction erring operators on drop calls.

According to the Executive Vice Chairman, Prof. Umar Danbatta said the  commission had put in place mechanisms to ensure regulatory excellence and operational efficiency to maintain commitment to transparency.

Danbatta said part of the measures was for NCC to monitor calls, pointing out that any call that was not a dropped-call and was charged would be detected and the telecom provider sanctioned.

“There is a limit to which a call can be dropped,” he stated. “We have put in place parameters to monitor what is happening, especially as regards dropped calls. This will locate the operator, to ensure that they maintained standards.

He notes that  when these parameters were analysed, the NCC would be able to detect the dropped calls from service providers, and the operator’s attention would be drawn to enable it to address the problem.

About Bukola Olanrewaju

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