Monday, December 12, 2005

NCC sets up panel on Vmobile validity, reassures on SAT-3

NIGERIAN Communications Commission (NCC) would soon set up Consumer Negotiating Panel (CNP) to determine the fate of a leading Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) operator, Vmobile Nigeria, for unilaterally reducing the duration of validity for its long standing subscribers.

This development is coming as NCC reassured on separation of SAT-3
from the Nigerian Telecommunications Limited (NITEL) proposed privatization
plan, saying it is for the benefit of the populace.

The indication for the panel follows a complaint tendered before the Telecom Consumers Parliament held Wednesday in Lagos by consumer rights organization.

The organization reported that Vmobile had on inception made its validity open entailing that subscribers could accumulate validity as long as they recharge their Subscriber Identity Module (SIM).
But recently, the operator reduced it to about 90 days without any recourse to the feeling of the subscribers.

Reacting to this among other things in his closing remark at the last monthly Parliament for the year 2005, the Executive Vice Chairman and chief executive, NCC, Dr. Ernest Ndukwe decried the decision of the GSM operator, stressing that some of the subscribers must have bought their lines based on that openness of the validity structure before now.

He said that his office would set up a consumer negotiating panel to negotiate with the operator the compensation to be given to the subscribers.

This, he said, could be in the neighbourhood of N5,000 to N10,000
free airtime, depending on the level of validity accumulated by various
customers, order to for Vmobile to bail itself out of the contract

He advised Vmobile to warm up for the panel by putting its solicitors in place because NCC would soon assemble a group of solicitors from its side to represent consumers at the panel.

"A contact is a contract. If you want to make a change there are exist plans including buying your way out and giving enough time for them (customers) to adjust," he said.

According to him, he expects Vmobile to explain the worth of the cancelled validity to consumers for backing out of the contract without regards.

NCC boss, also reassured that separation of SAT-3 from the promposed NITEL privatization plan by the Federal Government was in good faith; to save Nigerians from the agony of transforming the structure from public monopoly into private monopoly.

"Private sector monopoly is more dangerous than public sector monopoly," he declared.

Dr. Ndukwe emphasized that those arguing otherwise should look at the long term of the separation, saying that the future would vindicate the government for taking this a positive stand on the issue of SAT-3.

He explained that SAT-3 would continue to carry traffic with or without NITEL, insisting that it is ill-advised to hand it over to a company since it is a national asset, bought through public fund.

"No single company would be allowed to have more than five per cent of the eventual company that would manage SAT Consortium, and it is good to preserve SAT-3," he said.

NCC chief executive further warmed NITEL to desist from charging subscribers on the network when their line is faulty.

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