the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) says it has discovered illegal deductions of customers' airtime by Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) for various Value Added Service (VAS) following a thorough investigation into the matter. The deductions spanned over two years.

The telecom regulator said in a statement in Abuja that it would soon give an order directing the telcos to refund the illegal deductions made in the last two years.

The commission expressed its displeasure about the illegal deductions made by the MNOs; adding that it had noted the high level of complaints made by customers as regards forceful subscription as well as airtime deductions for these subscriptions. It also said it had instructed different agencies like the Do-Not-Disturb facility to tackle the issue but to no avail. Hence, the need for a proper investigation by the commission.

“Disturbed by the persistent occurrence of the menace despite these measures, the commission carried out a long and comprehensive investigative audit into VAS subscriptions across all MNO and VAS platforms.

The investigative audit was carried out by departments in the commission led by the Compliance Monitoring and Enforcement Department, the Technical Standards and Network Integrity (TSNI), Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB), Legal and Regulatory Services (LRS), and Licensing and Authorisation (L&A) departments.

The audit team carried out an investigation on subscribers Call Detail Records from MNOs and subscriptions for VAS providers over the last two years and discovered that a huge percentage of the VAS subscriptions were involuntary.

The regulatory agency said it had continuously stated that actions like forceful subscriptions and illegal deductions were unacceptable. The NCC said that based on the investigative audit, it would direct the accused MNOs to make refunds to affected customers. The commission would most likely impose appropriate sanctions on the indicted organizations, this would be determined by evidence-based interventions.

The NCC also plans to suspend or stop the operations of VAS platforms and services in the best interest of the customers. It assured customers that these measures would be implemented with minimal inconvenience to them and also assured the stakeholders that it would continue to use all available resources to protect the rights of consumers of telecommunications.