By Michael Malakata
Nigeria, Africa’s largest telecom market, has joined the list of countries on the continent that will impose prison sentences on officials at mobile operators that continually fail to deliver quality services to customers.
Tanzania and Zambia are among African countries imposing prison sentences on mobile operators who do not provide quality telecom services.
The Nigeria Consumer Protection Council (CPC) has warned mobile phone operators that it would soon start filing criminal charges against them as a way of whipping them to order. The consumer watchdog, supervised by the Nigerian government under the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, said lack of strict punishment for erring companies had led to a situation where consumers no longer get value for their money in the West African country.
Dupe Atoki, CPC director general, said in the country’s telecom sector, consumers are still contending with dropped calls, unsolicited texts and calls, and credit wipe-off.
Poor service provision by operators in the region is generally considered to be a result of lack of investment in networks and has become a source of concern in many African countries where consumers are losing money on uncompleted calls.
Last year, the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) imposed a ban on operators, stopping them from adding more subscribers to their networks until their networks were improved.
Over the past four years, mobile operators in the region have been engaged in a price war that has resulted in cheaper communication services but also in serious network congestion as an increasing number of subscribers take advantage of low rates. Quality Assurance tests (QAT) that have been carried out by telecom regulators in several countries in the region have shown that all operators that were tested failed to meet service quality levels specified in service level agreements.