The Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Isa Patanmi, has directed mobile network providers to put an end to automatic voicemail services.
The minister, in a statement signed by his spokesperson, Mrs Uwa Suleiman, said complaints of subscribers indicated that operators were exploiting them with automatic voicemail service.
According to him, subscribers should be given the option of subscribing to the service and not by default.
“Our attention has been drawn to the latest trend of financial exploitation by mobile network operators in the country, through the automatic activation of the voicemail service on their platforms. Based on recent reports reaching the office, the practice has gained momentum in recent times,” Patanmi said.
“The voicemail service should be accessed at the discretion of the subscriber and not by default.”
The minister expressed worry that telecom subscribers were made to incur financial charges for a service they were compelled to use.
He directed the Nigerian Communications Commission to ensure that operators gave subscribers an option for accessing the service via an activation code.
He noted, “Voicemail is not a popular service among mobile phone users in Nigeria, coupled with the language challenge among rural dwellers, who mostly do not understand the language deployed by these networks.
“It is apparent that the recent clampdown on the exploitative activities of some mobile network operators in the country has beamed the searchlights on the sector properly, and some unpatriotic elements in the system are devising subtle, ingenious methods of defrauding Nigerians.”
Patanmi said the ministry would not condone practices by telcos that would defraud Nigerians of their money regardless of how subtle it was.
The statement said, “In the light of this, Pantami has issued a broad policy directive to the sector regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission, to immediately ensure that issues regarding automatic voicemails are addressed on all existing phone lines and the subscribers, given the option of accessing the service via an activation code.”
Mobile network operators have described the order issued by the minister on voicemail as an unnecessary interference.
The operators, who are members of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria, said the matter was a mere consumer-related issue that the minister referred to as a policy issue.
The association, in a statement by its Chairman, Gbenga Adebayo, and Operations Manager, Gbolahan Awonuga, however, recognised that Sections 23 and 24 of the Nigeria Communications Act empowered the minister to formulate general policy for the communications sector.