Telcos kick against Pantami’s directive on Automatic Voicemails

Following the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Dr Ali Pantami directive for telecommunication companies to deactivate automatic voicemails on existing phone lines in the country, the telcos have responded to it. 

According to Gbenga Adebayo, the Chairman of Association of Licensed Telecoms Companies of Nigeria (ALTON) as reported by The Nation, the allegation contained in the statement released by Minister Pantami was untrue as the telcos were not forcing voicemail (VM) services on subscribers. 

Adebayo said that the issue of automatic voicemails was not a major policy issue but instead was a consumer issue which the ministry could have easily called the attention of the NCC to settle amicably. 

Speaking further, Adebayo went on to clarify that automatic voicemails are value-added services and as such should not be given to only those who request it. 

However, he added that every customer has a choice to allow it or not as the voicemail only comes on if a user calls another and the recipient doesn’t pick. The voice prompt comes after the ringing tone ends, and if the user quits it immediately, he/she won’t be charged. 

Adebayo’s words: “Our attention has been drawn to yet another directive by the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy on Deactivation of Voice Mail Protocol by Service Providers’ Network. 

 “In as much that we want to believe that the minister was misquoted. However, our positions on Voicemail Directive by the minister are VM is a value-added service. Only those who opt-in should have it;  the current practice on some networks is that once you call and the recipient doesn’t pick, you get a voice prompt saying that the subscriber is not available and asking you to record a voice message *after the tone*. 

 “For the avoidance of doubt, you (as a consumer) are not billed anything, but if you delay, you may be charged for a few seconds, or for the time it takes you to record the message. 

 “The recipient of the voice mail does not get charged for listening. It is free. 

 “VM is a value added service and it should only be provisioned for those who expressly request for it. It may be recalled that MNOs reintroduced the VM facility to discourage people who “flash” continuously. Flashing wastes network resources and also degrades QoS reporting. This should not however justify the practice the way it is being done by some networks. However, this is not a major “policy issue” within the meaning of S. 23&24 of the NCA which empower.”   

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