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Telephone Companies Are Ripping Off Ghanaian Customers (Part 1)   
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Ursula Owusu-Ekuful – Minister of Communication
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International telephone companies operating in Ghana are ripping off their customers very easily without any penalties to deter them. 

In countries like Uganda and Nigeria where customer welfare is very important, they are fined for recalcitrance and violations. For instance, in Nigeria where MTN has over 60-million subscribers, the company announced in October 2015 that it had been fined $5.2 billion by the Nigerian Communication Commission (NCC) for failing to disconnect up to five million unregistered SIM cards. MTN negotiated and succeeded in having the fine reduced by 1/3, paying $3.5 billion.

In Ghana, the National Communication Authority (NCA) is the industry regulator, the equivalent of the NCC. According to market statistics posted by the NCA, as of the end of October 2016, the number of mobile voice subscribers was 37,369,666.

Ghana, with a population of some 26 millioin, has six operators all of them multinationals. Listed according to market size in October 2016, they are MTN (48.92%), Vodafone (21.86%), TIGO (14.35%), Airtel (12.54%), GLO (2.06%) and Expresso (0.27%).

The law makes it mandatory for subscribers to register their SIMS before they are activated. However, once the money is issued, the vendor releases the cards and the telcos activate them. All the telcos care about is the money; not the country’s security through regulations.

As a financial journalist, I have monitored for 18 months the overcharging schemes of the telcos operating in the country and this article will show in detail how they rob their ignorant, innocent Ghanaian customers. I will start with the industry leader MTN which, in last October, had 18,280,956 subscribers.

Because of overcharging, I use my phone for calls and text messages ONLY, and even that, they manage to rob me too. For every observation I state, I will make it verifiable so that MTN and/or the reader may check it up.

Because of overcharging, in The Daily Graphic of Tuesday, June 23, 2015, a widow, Joyce Tagoe, called for measures that would prevent the telcos from “stealing our credit”.

MTN send many unwelcome messages so repeatedly that it costs me a lot of time and effort deleting them. Unable to cope with this overtime work, I have usually gone to their Medina office to ask them to take me off their messaging list. To comply, they block access, making it impossible to send me such messages.  However, after a week of quietude and peace, they start sending me the messages again, ripping me off each time.

From May to December 2015, almost every week found me in that Madina office with complaint about this aggravated harassment, amidst EMPTY threats of legal suit.

A legal suit is Ghana is a very big task. It takes too much time. Besides, one needs a lot of money and an unbelievable level of excruciating patience. I have a legal suit with the Ghana Post Office. Such cases take about 12 months to end. But it has dragged on for six years and keeps going. This explains why I characterize my threats of legal suit as empty.

To let you see the aggravated harassment I am suffering from MTN, some of the messages are reproduced raw hereunder:

Message No.1: “Yello! Send 1 (Baafira remix – STONEBWY FT SARKODIE) or 2 (Koene – Edemft Ice Queen N Shaker) to 1355 to download as your caller tune? GHS0.65 has been deducted from your account as service fee for Tunez from 07-11-2015 to 06-12-2015. MTN Ghana.Sender 1355.Sent: 8:19:16 am. 07/11/15.

They send you annoying message ordering you to do something, and even before you read it, they have illegally charged you. Sometimes, the above message is sent twice within the same day with money taken each time. The same message above has been sent to me so many times that I will reproduce only the significant parts that show the time and date that make them different from the one above.

Message No.2: “Yello! Send 1 (Baafira remix – STONEBWOY FT SARKODIE) … etc. From 08-10-2015 to 07-11-2015.Sent 10:41:55 am. 08/10/15.

Message No.3: “Yello! Send 1 (Baafira remix – STONEBWOY FT SARKODIE) … etc. From 08-09-2015 to 07-10-2015.Sent 9:24:35 am. 8/9/15.

Message No.4: “Yello! Send 1 (Baafira remix – STONEBWOY FT SARKODIE) … etc. From 09-08-2015 to 08-09-2015.Sent: 10:00:12 am. 9/8/15.

Before I decided to write this exposé, I had deleted about 30 of these messages, some of which were duplications.

Message No.5: “Yello! Your Caller tune Love Letter by Bisakdei will expire on 17-08-15. Pls ignore this SMS if you would like to renew and keep it in your library. To delete it and reject renewal, reply with 2. Sender 1355031668464. Sent:10:39:10 am. 16/8/15.

I never selected any caller tune! Messages like the one above carry a charge, but they are silent on it.  All the same, they charge when you subscribe to such nonsense.  It is ILLEGAL to charge when a material fact is not disclosed in an offer. And since I never respond to such nuisance, they constantly rob me.  What is even more vexing if I dare call them on a questionable charge, I am delayed for a long time with questions and charged for the duration of the call!

Message No.6: “Yello! You have successfully renewed Love Letter by Bisakdei GHS0.26 for 9 days, validity extended till 15-11-2015. Dial 1355 for more hot songs! Sender: 1355.  Sent: 5:08:32 pm 18/8/15.

I never subscribed to anything, let alone renew it. My pone is strictly used for calls and text messages ONLY!

Message No.7: Know what girls want! Dial *300*5# to subscribe for free. Browse www.mtnplay.com.gh/music. Sender: 300. Sent 9:46:57 am. 13/11/15.

It was just to avoid receiving obscene immoral messages like this one that I asked them to take me off their massaging list.  Who told them that I have to know what girls want?

Message No.8: Your number 245021303 was chosen to meet Cristiano Ronaldo and to win CASH and TRIPS to MADRID to see him playing (0.20/day)! Reply with YES. Sender: 7777. Sent 2:57:32 pm. 2/11/2015.

It was also to avoid such cheap messages that I blocked access to me.  So far, how many of their customers have won and gone to Madrid to see Cristiano Ronaldo playing?

Message No.9: Dear Subscriber, Your request for Service Activation has been processed successfully. Sender: MTN. Sent: 6:05:45 pm.  2/8/15.

I never requested for anything. I use my phone for calls and text messages ONLY!

Message No. 10: Yello! You have downloaded the Caller tune Love Letter and the great news is that it’s free for 15 days Call 1355 or Dial *1355# for more [email protected] Sender 1355. Sent: 6:00:44 pm 2/8/15.

A shameful lie, because I never downloaded anything!

Message No. 11:  You have successfully subscribed to MTN Caller Tunez.  Call 1355 to browse and download your favorite songs! Sender: 1355. Sent: 6:00:44 pm. 2/8/15

I never subscribed to anything!

Messaage No.12: Congrats! Your Caller Tunez Service if free for 7 days because it’s Happy Hour! A monthly service fee of 0.54 GHC will be auto renewed upon expiry.  Dial 1355 to manage your account.  Sender: 1355. Sent: 6:00:44 pm. 2/8/15.

Message No.13:  Yello!  Dial *1355# to download your favorite songs to entertain your callers with MTN Caller Tunez. To download Dorobucci  (Dr Sid ft Don Jazzy) dial *1355*9#. Sender: MTN. Sent: 2:19:54 pm. 17/7/15.

Message No. 14: Your subscription for MTN Phonebook Backup was renewed and will expire again on 07/21/15.  Sender: 7014. Sent: 10:35:30 am. 21/6/15/.

Message No. 15: Your subscription for MTN phonebook Backup was renewed and will expire again on 06/05/15/ Sender: 7014. Sent: 3:24:54 pm. 30/05/15.

Message No. 16: Congratulations on your 2 year anniversary on MTN.  You are rewarded 30 minutes free airtime for on-net calls.  Sender: MTN Loyalty. Sent: 8:15:49. 02/05/15.

Not a free loader, I never want anything which is free, because there is no free lunch anywhere.  I felt insulted by this very message about freebies! What is more, I cannot use the time because I use my phone strictly for my own calls and text messages ONLY!

Message Ni.17: Your subscription for MTN Phonebook Backup was renewed and will expire again on 05/20/2015.  Sender: 7014. Sent: 10:32:58 am. 20/4/15.

Market share        

MTN Ghana continues to dominate the mobile telephony sector.  Last October, it had 18,280,956 subscribers.  This is 48.92 per cent of the market.  Last year, they were charging GC0.12 (12 pesewas) per minute for MTN to MTN calls.  For ease of calculations, I will simply use 18-million subscribers.

Stealing of credit

Sometime ago when you made a call, MTN would take any amount they want from your credit without informing you.  Amazingly, within a short time, your credit was depleted.  Customers started to complain bitterly.

Following numerous customer complaints, about three years ago, telcos were required by law to give you information on every call immediately you terminate the call.  This notification is supposed to give you the duration of the call, the charge per minute, the beginning and the ending balances of your credit.

[email protected]  (026) 823-8826 or (027) 995-2679

By Rodger Agyin

To be continued.


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