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NCA Takes Steps To Check Unsolicited Texts
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The National Communications Authority (NCA) has developed measures to manage the increasing spate of unsolicited text messages and calls consumers are receiving on their mobile devices.

As part of the measures, all mobile network operators and content providers would be required to ensure that all messages which have not been subscribed to do not cost consumers.

Additionally, the service and content providers would be obligated to use “START” and “STOP” for subscribers to either activate or de-activate all the non-transactional and promotional electronic communications.

To reduce the incidence of consumers receiving the same message twice a day, the NCA has also directed that promotional and non-transactional electronic messages, including text and calls, are not to be sent more than once a day or three times a month, with the exception of messages subscribed to by consumers.

The Director General of the NCA, Mr Paarock VanPercy, told the Daily Graphic on Saturday that those measures were agreed upon by the NCA with the mobile network operators after a series of meetings in the past two months,subsequent to the number of complaints received by the NCA from consumers.

As part of the measures to sanitise the industry of unsolicited electronic communications, Mr VanPercy said, it had also been agreed that those promotional messages should be sent out only from 8.00 a.m. to 7.00 p.m. daily, and should only be sent strictly from Mondays to Saturdays.

“All mobile network operators were in the process of developing a portal which would enable consumers to self-manage their subscriptions through their mobile devices.

“ In addition, to reduce the spate, mobile network providers are required to do business only with value added service providers or content providers who have been duly registered with the NCA,” he said.

Consumer education

Mr VanPercy said that the authority would soon begin consumer education on those measures.

He explained that although mobile network operators had the right to inform their subscribers of products and services related to their network, the regulator had been receiving complaints from consumers about advertisements and promotions that they received on a daily basis.

According to him, the authority arranged for meetings with the mobile network operators and content providers and during those meetings, issues concerning unsolicited text messages were comprehensively discussed.

That, he said, enabled the authority to put together all complaints and concerns and develop measures that had been adopted by the mobile network operators and content operators.

“These measures are a precursor to the development of an industry code of conduct which would spell out in full details legal obligations of industry players to the dissemination of messages through an electronic platform,” he said.

Consumer rights

Mr VanPercy said the NCA had been monitoring the situation to determine the level of compliance since those measures were fully implemented in August this year.

While acknowledging the use of SMS by operators as a crucial marketing communication tool for the survival of their business, the Director General advocated for some form of control to avoid abuse and disregard for the right of the consumer.

Mr VanPercy denied that those measures would put the content providers out of business, saying that, that would rather help them to build stronger business models to achieve effective communication instead of developing consumer apathy to their promotional messages, stressing that “business of content provision in Ghana would flourish as a result.”

Impact on business

Direct reach to consumers has made SMS and direct calling one of the most effective ways of selling services and products.

However, with recent penetration of mobile subscription figures in Ghana reaching over 100 per cent, advertisers and marketers are making use of mobile electronic communications, with a resulting invasion of privacy.

This has also become irritating to consumers to such an extent that, some consumers have resorted to switching off the beeping notifications, rendering the channel unusable for legitimate business communications.

Mr VanPercy said “the bottom line is that apart from the nuisance it imposes, if SMS spam increases, it degrades the integrity of the channel for all users, eventually resulting in the demise of SMS messaging.

He, however, said if the channel was used legitimately, ethically and innovatively, it increased the value of the SMS for all users, hence, our quest to manage the situation”.

“The day consumers’ start switching off their SMS notifications marks the start of the end in SMS usefulness as a valuable alert mechanism. As such, it is important for all stakeholders – mobile network operators, content providers, technology providers, digital agencies, brands, consumer protection organisations and consumers – to fight the misuse of electronic communications,” he stated.
Source: Daily Graphic

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