About one million fake mobile phone handsets valued at N2.7bn were imported into the country last year.

This is just as the Federal Government bemoaned the poor quality of service delivery by telecommunications operators in the country.

Minister of Communication Technology, Mrs. Omobola Johnson, made this known on Monday Consumer Roundtable on Phone Rights organised by the Consumer Protection Council, CPC, to commemorate the 2014 World Consumer Rights? Day in Abuja.

Johnson, who said the figures could be higher this year, however, noted that government?s ?ability to attract investments into theead telecom sector is severely hampered if we are lucrative market for fake products?.

She also listed the health hazards of sub-standard devices, pointing out that ?fake phones are actually a drain on network resources as they reduce network speed and impair reception simply because they use substandard components like antenna.

?Sometimes, if you experience poor quality service, it may simply be your phone and not the network operators fault. So the consumers? well-known adage applies here: If the price is too good to be true then it is too good to be true,? she said.

The minister said though quality service was global, stressing that the source vary from inadequate or weak regulation to inadequate infrastructure, non-transparent billing, customer service and fake phones that compromise the quality of service experienced by the consumer.

?To a very large extent we know where the source of our quality of service issue lies, it is the inadequacy and vulnerability of our ICT infrastructure and also a need for service providers to begin to behave more like service companies and not infrastructure companies.?

Meanwhile, in a bid to improve consumer education and protect the rights of subscribers from certain exploitative activities of some telecommunications operators, the CPC has launched a compendium of the rights of telecommunication subscribers in Nigeria.

Johnson, who launched the compendium yesterday at the CPC roundtable warned operators to play by the rules in line with CPC?s crusade, saying, ?The CPC is an agency that can bark and bite.?

She said there was a need for the NCC to strengthen its collaboration with the council to address subscribers? complaints on poor telecoms service delivery.

CPC Director-General, Mrs. Dupe Atoki, said: ?Like most interventions and innovations that have such an immense bearing on the general populace, abuses are prevalent.

Such abuses remain unabated if the consumers of these products or services know little or nothing about their rights in this regard.

?On the other hand, the conglomerates that provide these products or services benefit from the apathy of the uninformed consumers.

?The Nigerian consumers of telecoms services have been unable to assert their rights due largely to ignorance of these rights and where to complain.

Therefore, in celebrating the World Consumer Rights Day, with the theme ?Fix our phone rights?, the CPC believes that the way forward is to codify the rights of telecommunications subscribers so that they can access, read and understand these rights.

?These rights come under segments such as poor network, unsolicited services, unlawful deductions/ non-transparent billing, exploitative automated services, unauthorised SIM swaps/line disconnection, poor internet services and poor customer service.

?The Compendium of the Rights of Telecoms Subscribers in Nigeria was developed by the CPC and is being launched as part of the commemoration of the World Consumer Rights Day. The consumer can take the compendium, which is very simple and concise, to the relevant operators and say this is my right.

?The initiative is one step for us in our advocacy platform for public enlightenment in Nigeria.?

The CPC DG stressed that the agency would partner regulatory agencies and telecommunications operators ?to ensure that consumers get value for their money.?

?In everything, collaboration brings out the best result to the extent that the consumer right is put at the forefront. We will collaborate with the National Telecommunications Commission and the operators. The NCC has its powers while we have ours. There may be some overlapping functions but we will continue to insist that the consumer is the king and they must get value for their money,? she said.

The Minister of State for Industry, Trade and Investment, Dr. Samuel Ortom, commended the CPC for its renewed efforts towards protecting consumers? rights.

?I want to commend the efforts of the new leadership of the CPC, led by Mrs. Dupe Atoki, for its renewed tenacity at ensuring that the rights of Nigerian consumers are respected in all ramifications,? Ortom said.

The Chairman, House Committee on Commerce, Hon. Sylvester Ogbaga, said that owing to consumers? complaints against telecoms operators, there was the need for severe sanctions against operators to restore consumers? confidence in the sector.

?The regulatory agencies should call the telecommunications operators to order. They should sanction them if there is the need to do so. I believe that there is need to sanction them.

However, the Federal Government should look into CPC?s budget because agencies that provide such services like CPC should be provided with adequate funding. If you look at CPC?s budget for this year, it is very ridiculous,? he said.


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