Unwanted advertising. Every Nigerian has been exposed to this; medicine marketers fill Lagos buses selling one magic pill for whatever ails you. And whether you live in the North, South, East or West, you’ve experienced that belly-aching feeling when your favourite television programme is interrupted by an ad break. When it comes to your mobile phone, you hope to find some relief, but the reverse is the case. Network providers flood your devices with unwanted text messages and calls time after time. It doesn’t cost them anything. But it cost you battery life, focus and good old peace of mind.
‘Do not disturb.’ If there is a group of people that need to be told this, it has got to be Nigerian telecommunication operators. With unlimited access to all the numbers on their various networks, Nigerians are at the mercy of these operators’ constant communication like a lady forced to listen to a suitor’s advances. Perhaps the past tense would better represent the situation, considering the fact that the Nigeria Communications Commission earlier this year, dedicated a short code, 2442, through which subscribers can opt-in to a database that would enable them register their numbers against unsolicited messages.
On the other hand however, the constant invasion of subscribers’ phones by telcos is still a present reality. There are many reasons for this. According to a survey, nine out of ten subscribers are unaware of this provision by the NCC. One subscriber, Miss Princess Orudu told our reporters: “I have never heard about the do not disturb code before, I still get unsolicited text messages from my service provider, but I never knew there was a way to stop it.”
Although it is unlikely that after the MTN fine saga last year, telcos would risk the wrath of the NCC by ignoring its directive and incurring a N5 million fine, they have instead resorted to communicating the sort code, but just barely so. No network publicized the code as it would a promo. In what would seem like an effort to fulfil all righteousness, telcos sent text messages to inform subscribers of the development. Ironically, subscribers, conditioned by the constant text message badgering, treated such messages as they would any junk message-by ignoring them.
Another subscriber who did not want his name in print only remembered the short code when asked about it by our reporters. His words: “I think I remember seeing a message from my provider about this, but I didn’t really pay attention to it. I have received my fair share of the messages from my network, and I can state the fact that they can be annoying. I like the fact that the code is out so that I can stop receiving those messages.”
However, another subscriber Mr Gbenga Olatunji commented that he liked a couple of the messages and had subscribed to some of it, saying that he was learning from them. He said: “I am very grateful for the code. Contrary to popular opinion, not everyone dislikes those messages. Some of us actually learn from them and would love to access them without issues.”
Recall that in April, the NCC through its Director of Public Affairs, Mr. Tony Ojobo directed Telcos to enforce their ‘Do not Disturb’ facility to protect subscribers from the nuisance of unsolicited texts. The Commission directed the operators to give the necessary instructions and clarifications that will enable subscribers subscribe to a particular service/services /none at all. A full DND, which is SMS “STOP” to 2442, does not allow the subscriber to receive any unsolicited message from the operators at all. And just in case some subscribers like Olatunji want to opt in to receiving some specific messages, the NCC made provisions for that as well. Customers can SMS 1 to receive SMS relating to Banking, Insurance/ Financial products to 2442, 2 for real Estate messages, 3 for Education related messages, 4 for health related messages, 5 for receiving SMS relating to Consumer goods and Automobiles.
To receive messages related to Communication/ Broadcasting Entertainment/IT, the code is 6, for Tourism and leisure, 7, for sports, 8 and 9 for SMS relating to Religion.