Reps Support N5m Fine Against Telcomms For Idiscriminate, Unsolicited Calls, Sms

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SAN FRANCISCO, March 10, (THEWILL) – Members of the House of Representatives have supported the enactment of a bill that seeks to reduce the incidence of unsolicited telephone calls and text messages received by consumers.

The bill sponsored by Ali Madaki (APC-Kano) scaled the second reading on the floor of the House and was referred to the House Committee on Telecommunication for further legislative action.

Madaki explained that the bill, which seeks to empower an aggrieved subscriber to file a civil claim before a High Court to provide any penalty thereof, also prohibits telemarketing without the consent of the subscriber.

Madaki argued that it would provide a legal framework to address issues such as unsolicited ring tones, calls and SMS.

On his part, Abdulrazak Namdas, Chairman, House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, called for caution, noting that politicians make use of automated unsolicited bulk SMS and calls to disseminate useful information during campaign period.

Namdas however observed that subscribers could easily opt out of being sent unwanted texts and calls by selecting the relevant option on their phones.

However, House Majority Leader, Femi Gbajabiamila opined that unsolicited calls and messages from any source amounted to an invasion of privacy.

Gbajabiamila, while citing Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution, which deals with the right to privacy, described unsolicited communications as a form of harassment. This is as he further argued that the bill stand alone, rather than it be presented as an amendment to the NCC law.

In his ruling, Speaker Yakubu Dogara said the bill could stand alone as it concerns the protection of citizens' privacy, and informed the House that a bill, which seeks to protect personal data of subscribers, was underway.

He therefore ruled that the bill be sent to the Committee on Telecommunications for further legislative action.

Section 1 of the bill prohibits service providers from transmitting nor instigate the transmission of communications comprising recorded voice by means of an automated calling or communication systems, unsolicited text messages by means of a facsimile machine, or unsolicited communication by means of electronic mails for the purpose of inappropriate recorded voice or their text messages.

Section 6 of the bill also mandated the “Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) to issue regulations to service providers on the operations of telemarketing business in Nigeria.”

Similarly, section 9 of the bill states that: “any service provider that call or send an unsolicited text message to any of its subscribers shall be guilty of an offence and liable on conviction to a fine of N5 million, unless the service provider prove unsolicited calls, text messages is for goods and services.”

Story by David Oputah