The indefinite ban on consumer promotions and lotteries on telecommunications networks in Nigeria which was imposed by the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) on November 8, 2012 is now being questioned by consumers and rights activists. The position of the Nigerian Mobile Phone Subscribers Coalition (NMPSC) is that the blanket ban is unfair as the NCC had just conducted quality of service check on the operators in line with its mandate which empowers the regulatory agency to ensure that the licensees meet required standards from time-to-time.
According to NMPSC, the regulatory agency should have treated the network operators on a case-by-case basis and impose sanctions based on failure to meet minimum standards rather than deny consumers the opportunity to enjoy the benefits of the freebies offered by the telecommunications companies.
Indeed, between July and September this year, which falls within the period the consumer promotions were heavy on the various networks, the NCC conducted a Nationwide Benchmark Drive Test on the four major operators – MTN, Globacom, Airtel and Etisalat. The test focused on Call Completion Rate, which encompasses the major network KPI (call drop and congestion). The service providers were ranked in Lagos and the six geo-political zones of southwest, southeast, south south, north central, northeast and northwest.
According to the report, Airtel, which was ranked as the best operator for good quality of service based on the NCC’s Audit Report for March and April, 2012, again scored quite high in the Benchmark Drive Test. The network, which has experienced several ownership and brand name changes in its over 11 years of operation in the Nigeria market, finished top in three regions – south south, southwest and northeast, and came second in the other regions, namely Lagos, north central, northwest and southeast.
For Etisalat, the fifth GSM operator which launched commercial service only four years ago, the performance in the Benchmark Drive Test is also remarkable. The latest GSM service provider had itself been rated best telecommunications service provider for good quality of service by the NCC based on the Quality of Service Key Performance Indicator audit report released in February 2012. In the Benchmark Drive Test conducted a few months later, Etisalat polled behind Airtel in south south having recorded 86 per cent, southwest (82 per cent) and northeast (67 per cent). It however recorded first position in the other regions – north central (94 per cent), Lagos (92 per cent), northwest (90 per cent) and southeast (85 per cent) – with Airtel coming second in each of these areas.
MTN finished third in north central (74 per cent), south south (71 per cent), and northeast (58 per cent); and fourth in the other zones – Lagos (72 per cent), southwest (72 per cent), northwest (59 per cent) and southeast (53 per cent).
According to the report, Glo came third in Lagos (88 per cent), southwest (79 per cent), northwest (78 per cent) and southeast (59 per cent) and fourth in north central (78 per cent), south south (78 per cent) and northeast (53 per cent).
Drawing from this report, Moses Adigun, a consumer rights activist and member of NMPSC, said NCC should have based its decision to apply the hammer on consumer promotions on its own findings. “What is the purpose of conducting a test for the whole class if all the students would be denied promotion to the next class in the end?,” he wondered.
“The outcome of the survey did not seem to have influenced the decision of the NCC in deciding on a blanket ban on promotions and lotteries which affected all operators, irrespective of their performance as discovered by NCC itself,” Adigun further said.
In the opinion of Chukwuemeka Adigwe, a Lagos-based lawyer, the ban on consumer promotions has not even brought about any noticeable improvement in the quality of service five weeks after. “The ultimate loser in all of this is the consumer who has now been denied discounts and freebies attributed to his spend on the network,” he fumed.