D50,000 FINE FOR GSM OPERATORS WHO SEND UNSOLICITED SMS TO SUBSCRIBERS

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By Tabora Bojang

GSM operators could now face up to D50,000 in fines for failing to comply with a new policy that bans them from sending unsolicited messages to their subscribers without prior consent, regulator Pura announced yesterday.

“From today, consumers will be given the power to choose either to receive or not to receive GSM’s value-added text messages, automated voice calls, or direct marketing calls,” Pura director of consumer affairs, Solo Sima told journalists at a press briefing.

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The new policy guideline dubbed ‘Do Not Disturb’ will require all mobile operators to ensure only solicited messages are sent to customers. Mr. Sima said following the inception of GSM operation in the country some 20 years ago, short message service was used by mobile operators to pass vital information like network failures to their subscribers but this was sidelined with the wide usage of telecommunication services for the delivery of business services which saw operators sending bulk and unnecessary messages to their subscribers on behalf of their business clients.

“This was not only seen as a marketing tool by operators but a value-added service as a result of which consumers receive unsolicited promotional SMS with some receiving up to 10 to 12 messages a day which overloaded their phone storage capacity and became a constant nuisance. As an Authority, we received complaints from consumers of all operators as it relates to these practices. These interventions by consumers are what led to the formulation of the Do Not Disturb guidelines,” Sima said.

He said Pura is hopeful that the new guideline will be effective in addressing the unnecessary dispatch of unwanted messages to customers as the authority steps up to do more to protect subscribers.

“Failure by any operator to honour the request of consumers on this range would lead to punitive actions on the said provider to the tune of D50,000 fine,” Sima warned.

Pura also said the new guideline will avail mobile users option to either activate the services partially by only receiving messages on areas of their interest or decide if they do not want to receive any messages from the operators.

Operators are further warned that they can only send such messages to their subscribers between 8am to 8pm except in emergencies.

Mobile users who wish to entirely cease all messaging services from operators can type STOP and send it 1040 while those who want messages on their areas of interest only can simply type HELP and send it to 1040 to give all the options to select.

Mobile data, credit cheat’s monitoring device

Asked about Pura’s stance to address consumer queries against exorbitant megabyte charges and credit deductions, Pura’s ICT director Nicholas Jatta, said the authority has received support from the World Bank to install a monitoring device that would monitor and verify data and call charges. Jatta assured that the device will be installed before December 2022.

“We are at the procurement stages of getting this monitoring tool. When it is operational anytime there is an issue or even before customers make complaints, we will be able to monitor, verify and take necessary steps against data deductions.”