The Nigerian Communications Commission has said there is a need for a proper guideline and a definitive document that should regulate the operations of Value Added Services (VAS) providers and short code allocation in the country. This, the regulator believes will tame the excesses of unsolicited text messages and other forms of promotions and lotteries by the VAS operators, that are anchored by Mobile network Operators (MNOs).
Value Added Services are those non-core services beyond voice calling and data. They include caller tune, ring back tunes, music download, tele-marketing, mobile entertainment, inspirational quotes, among other services.
Speaking at NCC’s organized interactive/engagement session with the VAS providers and Mobile Network Operators in the Nigerian telecom industry in Lagos, Mr. Ephraim Nwokonneya, head, Compliance Monitoring at NCC, said key findings from the commission revealed that VAS operators offered services for free to entice subscriber, only to be automatically charged for the services after the expiration period. “Some service provider mistake lotteries as VAS, the VAS licence is to add values to the industry,” he declared while describing the act as deceptive lotteries.
The industry already has a committee in charge of short code given to telcos, where they are made available to VAS operators, but the regulator thinks the committee should be expanded to accommodate other interest, considering the enormous potentials of mobile values added services in the next five years. Currently, industry statistics indicate the VAS market is worth $200 million with potential to grow to $500 million in the next five years.
Earlier, the executive vice-chairman of NCC, Dr. Eugene Juwah, who was represented by Mr. Okechukwu Itanyi, executive commissioner, Stakeholder Management, had said in his keynote address that the commission has received series of complaints from subscribers in respect to forceful activation of value added services by operators without consent from the subscribers. He added that as an individual subscriber and as industry regulator, the practices and behavior of VAS operators have given him lots of concern.
“The industry has witnessed high levels of tele-marketing, most time unsolicited. These services are auto-renewal resulting to lock-in of subscribers to such services. This constitutes a nuisance and the regulator can no longer accommodate it,” he warned.
Reacting, Mr. Simon Aderinlola, national coordinating consultant, Wireless Application Service Providers of Nigeria (WASPAN), the umbrella body of Value Added Service provider, said he believe the unsolicited text messages and other challenges recognized by the regulator are solvable. To him, whatever means that will be adopted by the working committee on the VAS regulatory framework should take into cognizance the protection of local content.
While disclosing that, WASPAN is working toward establishing a portal with which subscribers can express their grievances; he points accusing fingers to in-country VAS providers and in-country Bulk SMS retailers engaged by telcos as those supposedly responsible for most of the spam unsolicited text messages.