MTN, Airtel in data extortion – Subscribers


By Bukola Olanrewaju

Telecommunication subscribers in the country have raised their voices over excessive removal of data by telecom providers, even as they faulted Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) silence on it.

Having kept their cool on the fast depletion rate of data, many subscribers have now decided to air their disappointment and dissatisfaction on the matter.

A customer Service Agent, Mr Femi Ade complained to Nigerian NewsDirect about his one-month subscription getting exhausted within four days.

According to him, “MTN subscription is worst in terms of cost.  I paid the N1200 to subscribe for one month on Friday night and by Monday it was exhausted. I just couldn’t believe myself when I got the notification”, Femi said.

A technician who identified himself as Darlington also expressed his displeasure.

In his words, he said with dissatisfaction, “I don’t operate Instagram again, restricted my social media chat to Facebook and Whatsapp so that my 3GB Airtel subscription can last for at least three weeks”.

A businesswoman, Mrs Rachael Bamitale equally joined the masses on the matter.

Speaking further Bamitale explained that at first she thought it was her imagination but she was proved wrong when she heard other consumers are complaining like she does.

“I use to think it is because I did the cheap MTN subscription that makes the network operator wipe my data at any little opportunity they get. It’s just not cool”, Bamitale pointed out.

Moreso she said, “It depends on how one uses data but now I realize it is not 100 per cent true. Everybody cannot be wrong at the same time. People are complaining, something has to be done”. A  student Lagos State Polytechnic, Ipoola Adeoye told NewsDirect that he subscribed for MTN 1GB and the whole data finished within two days without watching any video online – not even Facebbok video or  operate Instagram.

Speaking from a professional angle, a project Manager from SPOOF ANIMATIONS, Mr Segun Peters told NewsDirect that, he has been able to manage the situation by first removing a lot of background applications and disable background data but the problem still persists. “I realised that the data charges are currently higher. For example, a 2.4GB data plan is exhausted by the time it gets to 2.1 as monitored by my phone data meter.

“Such discrepancy is due to a measure of untruth when given volume of data plan.

“An example occurred one night that I slept off with my network on. I had just subscribed for a 1.6GB data plan on airtel. At that time and by morning the data had been exhausted.  I  complained severally to the service provider and nothing came out of it”, Peter said.

Our Source revealed to NewsDirect that it could have been that the decision  by NCC  to commence charging new floor price rate for data which was suspended by the Senate could have been introduced secretly by the network providers.

The National Telecommunication Subscribers {NATCOMS} President, Chief Deolu Ogunbanjo admitted that the situation is currently getting out of hands, consumers are complaining, he noted.

“Consumers now are complaining that data runs faster than normal particularly in the last two months. For instance, if you buy 1GB for whatever amount depending on the network, before now you may use it for a specific number of days. But now, it is so unbelievably so short for the same usage.

“Subscribers are saying even when they do not download anything just Whatsapp, data burns faster. This is one of our major challenges in the industry now”, Ogunbanjo explained.

Speaking of its relationship with Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC), he mentioned that anytime a subscriber has issue, we normally engage NCC.

“I have had to call one or two network providers and some workers of NCC about the consumers’ complaint but they disagreed that there is nothing like that.

Even though it seems as if telecom operators and Internet Service Providers are currently at loggerheads to deliver data at relatively cheaper price, consumers’ complaints revealed otherwise and the issue of data floor price was revisited.

Ogunbanjo said, “Now subscribers are looking at whether they are introducing this data floor price through the back door but it has been denied”.

All attempts to get NCC reaction to this major consumers’ challenge proved abortive

However, Ogunbanjo  said, “it’s their world against subscribers because consumers aren’t the ones setting the data meter that is used for setting consumption rate.

“Operators are saying subscribers clicked, download or run application without their knowledge but they too also send and activate sms stuffs for us without our knowledge.

“So, it’s something that we still have to sort out through the NCC because they are our regulator”, Ogunbanjo said.

On November 1, 2016, the commission after a consultative meeting on October 19, 2016 with all mobile network operators in the country, wrote to them on the need to determine an interim price floor for data services.

In the memo, the telecom sector regulator justified its decision to have a price floor, claiming it was primarily to promote a level playing field for all operators in the industry, encourage small operators and new entrants.

The price floor of N3.11kobo per megabyte of data in 2014, it recalled, was removed in 2015, pointing out that the price floor that was supposed to flag off on December 1, 2016 was put at 90 kobo per megabyte.

Although the commission said smaller operators, by virtue of their small market share were exempted from the now suspended price regime, it said the decision on the floor price was to protect the consumers who were at the receiving end.

The commission said the decision was equally to save the smaller operators from predatory services likely to suffocate them and push them out of business into extinction.