Nigeria Mobile Phone Operators to Refund 40 Million usd to Subscribers

By Nigerian Punch / Everest Amaefule

The Nigerian Communications Commission has ordered two mobile operators, MTN Nigeria Communications Limited and Celtel Nigeria Limited, to refund about 4.7 billion Naira [about 41 million USD] to subscribers for poor quality of service rendered in the month of January.

The order, which was contained in separate directives issued to the two mobile operators by the regulatory agency last week asked them to refund N175 per subscriber for the first month.

They are also required to refund to each subscriber the same amount of money for subsequent months that they default in meeting the specified average key performance indicators.

They will also be required to cough out a similar amount for every month their congestion level is above the 10 per cent mark.

As at the end of December 2007, MTN had a subscriber base of 15.87m while Celtel had a subscriber base of 1.94m.

Impeccable sources at NCC confirmed to our correspondent that the directive to MTN and Celtel were issued following a quality of service test conducted by NCC in January.

However, the other major operator in the industry, Globacom, escaped the regulator's harmer as it met the quality standard.

The Nigerian Mobile Telecommunications Limited also escaped the regulator's harmer because the significant reduction in its subscriber base has reduced congestion in the network. Less than 10 per cent of M-Tel's former subscribers now use the network.

NCC had in September 2007 muted the idea of refund to subscribers by operators for failing to render good quality services.

The regulatory agency had on September 19, 2007 notified MTN and Celtel of its intention to issue an order for the two mobile operators to refund subscribers for poor quality of service rendered from October 1, 2007.

The notice required the mobile operators to explain why the directive should not be issued within a period of two weeks while the first refund to subscribers was expected to be made by the operators within the first week of November 2007.

However, to escape the refund order, both MTN and Celtel obtained an injunction from the Federal High Court in Lagos stopping NCC from implementing the order.

The restraining order was, nonetheless, vacated by the court on November 29, 2007 thus giving NCC the impetus to issue the fresh order on the mobile operators.

Our correspondent learnt that the operators had gone to court to obtain the restraining order on the grounds that implementing the directive could lead to a collapse of the networks as a result of increase in traffic that could result from subscribers having additional credits to make calls.

Although the nation had been praised for growing its subscriber base from less than 500,000 in 2001 to 42m subscribers as at September 2007, the revolution record in telecommunication has been tarnished by poor quality of service issues since the beginning of 2007.

Source: Nigerian Punch / Everest Amaefule