In the first week of May, the Nigerian Communications Commission mandated telecommunications operators in Nigeria to enforce the Do Not Disturb code across their network with the 30th of June as a deadline for implementation.
The nationwide directive was to all mobile network operators in respect of telemarketing, unsolicited text messages and calls, to dedicate a short code for use by subscribers to opt-in to the ‘Do Not Disturb (DND)’ database on their networks.
A Full DND which is SMS "STOP" to 2442 does not allow the subscribers to receive any unsolicited message from the operators at all.
— ncc.gov.ng (@NgComCommission) July 3, 2016
I thought this was never going to see the light of day, but the DND code was eventually implemented.
The NCC also tweeted several other information as regards the Do Not Disturb code from Tony Ojobo the Director of Public Affairs of the NCC.
The services were classified as follows,
- 1 for Banking/Insurance /Financial Products,
- 2 for Real Estate
- 3 for Education,
- 4 for Health,
- 5 for Consumer goods/Automobiles,
- 6 for Communications/Broadcasting/Entertainment /IT,
- 7 for Tourism/Leisure,
- 8 for Sports, and
- 9 for Religion.
To selectively opt out of any of these services, subscribers can just text the accompanying number to 2442 or, to fully activate Do Not Disturb and bar every unsolicited text message, SMS “STOP” to 2442.
The bad side to the good thing
But as there is heads or tails to every coin, this one too has a flip side. On the part of the consumers, there is the celebrated reduction in disturbance, but for the providers of Value Added Services in Nigeria it means reduced revenue and really lean times ahead.
In Nigeria, the business model of Value Added Services (VAS) includes the provision of bulk SMS, premium SMS, ring back tunes, etc.
Bulk SMS are provided to — mostly corporate — clients who are interested in reaching out to a large number of mobile subscribers over a particular area, regardless of interest.
The advertisement or call to action is blasted via SMS across a wide area like a fish net and interested users then proceed to check out the product or service. The example above probably contains links to a website hoping to increase its readership Or might be a link to a virus. I never found out because I did not click.
Premium SMS or reverse SMS billing on the other hand make the recipient pay for messages received after responding with a prompt.
Like the above example where Cristiano Ronaldo selected lucky me, these messages trick you into replying with an affirmative prompt and then they proceed to charge you — exorbitantly — for every time they send a message.
The Do Not Disturb code will drastically reduce the reach of telcos and companies that reach out through these means, and even the consumer VAS companies will take the major hit.
As a spokesperson of one of the major VAS players in Nigeria put it,
Sending ads to targeted mobile numbers has always been effective on all fronts. If we send out 3,000 SMS for example, the reach is a guaranteed 3,000. But now with the widespread implementation of this code, and as there is no way to know which numbers are DNDed, these days, 3,000 SMS sent out now has a 2,000 target reach and people have not been made fully aware of the Do Not Disturb Code. I wonder what happens when everybody eventually knows.
I think I have a fairly good idea what will happen when the mobile subscribers are made aware of their DND magic wand. And I suspect the telcos know too, that will account for why they have been reluctant about spreading the word about this new development.
In an activities summary of the Nigeria Communications Commission, the regulatory body decried this lack of awareness on the part of the telcos.
“Whereas, the Commission’s compliance checks revealed that most Mobile Network Operators have set up the Do Not Disturb facility on their networks, however, the awareness of existence of this facility is very low because the MNOs are reluctant to sensitize their subscribers on the availability of this facility and how to opt into same. Further investigations suggest that operators were not actually keen on the DND as this may affect their revenue stream from value added services.”
Like I mentioned earlier, I have a very good idea what will happen when the mobile subscribers finally get a hold of this knowledge. Like a bad teenager turned upon his trust fund on his 21st birthday, they will put a final STOP to this unsolicited messages without any regards to the options for selectively opting out of individual services.
Nigerians have zero chills like that, but you do not expect them to, given the amount of trouble they have had to put up with as a result of these unwanted ads via texts.
I currently have a magazine subscription from a “6780” on the Etisalat network that was automatically enabled without my consent and steady deducts ₦100 from my account every month. I have texted a hundred “STOP” — as advertised in the first text — to 6780 and have called the Etisalat customer care helpline multiple times, and still no show; ₦100 still leaves my account on a monthly basis for a service I do not need and never subscribed for in the first instance.
On the part of the MNOs, VAS players and people that use their services, it is going to be a festival of redoubled aggressive marketing techniques to get users to sign up for their products and services — voluntarily — without harassing them into submission.