This came to the fore at the gathering of stakeholders in the telecommunication Value Added Services (VAS) segment, under the Telecom Consumer Parliament (TCP), a quarterly Consumer forum, organized by the Consumer Affairs Bureau (CAB) of the NCC.
With the theme, Value Added Service: Its Benefit To Consumers, the 8rd edition of the TCP looked at ways the consumer could harness the inherent benefits of VAS and ways operators can make it more appealing to consumers without the attendant compulsion that had been associated with the service.
Speaking, Director of Consumer Affairs for the NCC, Felicia Onwuegbuchulam disclosed that between 2016 and 2021, the VAS market is expected to hit a $500 million mark from $200 million.
Some of the consumers that spoke at the forum charged the VAS operators to be more transparent in their dealing with the customer. The key grievance of most consumers at the forum bordered on automatic renewal of VAS service offerings. They lamented that a situation where VAS service providers subscribe consumers to services they had not opted for without prior or adequate notification was unacceptable.
While advising subscribers to always read VAS messages sent into their phones before deleting them, Executive Commissioner, Stakeholder Management, Sunday Dare also cautioned VAS service providers to invest more in analyzing their consumers, so as to be able to send directional targeted messages rather than broadcast message. “With targeted messages, you will be sending messages to people that have need of it.”
NCC noted that the Commission had mandated telcos to sign a memorandum of understanding with their VAS partners which in turn should sign such an agreement with a third party provider to ensure that subscribers are not exploited. Currently, over 360 VAS providers have been licensed by the Commission.
In his speech, the Executive Vice Chairman (EVC) of the NCC, Umar Garba Danbatta observed that whereas VAS could be very useful and provide services that may interest consumers and assist online and offline entrepreneurs to reach customers, particularly on the mobile markets both to advertise and to sell their products and services; on the other hand it could become a challenge, flooding the networks and thus consumers with all kinds of product offering that most consumers may not be interested in.
“The Commission therefore deems it fit to find a balance between enabling the opportunities that the VAS providers offer to some consumers, while at the same time mitigating the challenges or inconvenience they could constitute to other consumers. “
He further noted that the Do Not Disturb (DND) facility was provided so that consumers will have the power of choice. “Thus, while service providers are licensed by the Commission and are allowed to operate and provide value added services to consumers, the consumers are empowered through the DND facility to choose whether to allow or block access to these services on a full or partial basis.”
Danbatta reiterated that with the VAS Aggregator consultative forum which the Commission initiated will give rise to a framework that will further bring about a well-coordinated VAS market. “The framework designed by the Commission in consultation with industry players is to be adopted to enhance regulatory excellence and ease the operations of VAS provision in the Nigeria’s telecoms industry. The addition of the VAS Aggregator player to the original Value chain (Content Developer- VAS Provider- Network Service Provider) will lead to the recreation of the value chain into a framework of Content Developer- VAS Service Provider- VAS Aggregator- Network Service Provider.”
He noted that the overall aim of this reform is to ensure fairness in the entire VAS value chains.
While affirming the importance of the VAS segment of the industry as the hub for employment opportunities, huge revenue generation and national economic development, despite its challenges, Danbatta stated that consumers need to be educated on the need to take maximum advantage of the services.
The Telecoms Consumer Parliament is a platform for service providers and Consumers to interact on issues of common interest. The parliament has also provided a unique opportunity for consumers of the telecom industry to be enlightened and educated on burning issues in the industry. The 82nd edition of the Parliament was held in Abuja.