Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Telecom firms face fine over unwanted SMS

The Uganda Communications Commission will punish telecom service providers and SMS media companies that send out unsolicited messages and caller ring-back tunes.

In a UCC notice to the telecoms, and seen by Daily Monitor yesterday, UCC Executive Director Godfrey Mutaabazi warned all players in this industry to desist from offering unsought-for services to telecom subscribers.

“ All short code assignees stand warned and must take corrective action on major outcries of the public, among them; automatic content subscriptions without customers’ consent, repeated sending of similar messages and unjust deductions for the unsolicited messages,” Mr Mutabazi told Daily Monitor yesterday.
Caller ring-back tunes refer to ringtones offered by a given telecom company at a fee while unsolicited text messages are messages sent to consumers through the service provider and the receiver is charged.

According to a UCC Consumer Complaint report released last week, Warid Telecom, Airtel Uganda Ltd and MTN posted poor ratings. In the report, basing on a scale of 30 respondents who were interviewed, 100 per cent complained about the increased caller ring-back tunes while 90 per cent protested the increased unsolicited SMS.

According to the UCC 2011 statistics, Uganda has 16 million subscribers. If each of these receives at least one unsolicited message, then it means about Shs2.4 billion changes in a single day. This is because each text message of this kind costs an average of Shs150.
Industry players yesterday defended themselves.
SMS Media’s Director for Business Convergence Simon Kaheru said most of these companies are professional in the way they operate and comply to UCC regulations.
“At SMS Media, for example, we work hard to avoid spamming. We have invested heavily in software to manage professional subscription services and resolving any user issues that might arise out of SMS messages received by mobile phone users.”

Penalties In a previous meeting between UCC and the five major telecom companies, it was reportedly agreed that players desist from charging for such services, especially for consumers who do not concede to the request for such services.

“We agreed that they offer consumers a choice of opting out, and for such customers, they should not then receive any more messages or calls related to that particular service and they should not be charged. If telecoms do not adhere to this call, we shall impose a penalty,” Mr Fred Otunnu, UCC’s spokesperson said.
Telecoms confirmed this meeting, although they declined from commenting on the outcomes of the report. Warid’s CEO Naidu Sheilandra said: “I have not seen the report so I cannot explain anything”

Source: Daily Monitor

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