Telecoms regulator, Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), has fined the three leading mobile network operators in the country to the tune of N78.5 million.
New Telegraph learnt that MTN, Globacom, Airtel, and 9mobile were all found to have breached the rules guiding them in the process of replacing SIMs for their customers, thus incurring the wrath of the regulator.
However, while three of the operators are to pay the fine, 9mobile was said to have been issued a ‘strong warning’ by the commission as it recorded the lowest number of breaches.
According to the NCC, the infractions were discovered in its SIM replacement audit conducted in the fourth quarter of 2020. “All the four mobile network operators, MTN, Airtel, Globacom and 9Mobile (EMTS), were found to be in absolute breach.
Of the SIM Replacement Guidelines at the last SIM replacement audit exercise conducted by the commission. A notice of sanction was consequently issued to the respective MNOs to show cause why appropriate sanctions should not be imposed for the violation,” NCC stated in its enforcement report obtained by our correspondent.
According to the telecoms regulator, each of the telecoms operators was sanctioned according to the number of infractions recorded against its network. Specifically, Airtel was fined N3.2 million for 13 infractions recorded on its network, while Globacom is to pay the sum of N39.2 million for 37 infractions. MTN, which is the largest operator by subscriber number, was fined N36 million in respect of 24 infractions discovered on its network.
According to the SIM Replacement Guidelines issued by the regulator, “a SIM can be replaced if it is faulty, damaged, stolen, lost, obsolete (but eligible for replacement or an upgrade), and any other reasonable legitimate reason or condition necessitating a SIM replacement.
Provided that an operator may refuse a SIM Replacement request where there are reasonable grounds to believe that the replacement ought not to be carried out and the Commission is notified within 24 hours of such a decision.”
Parts of the requirements for SIM replacement as stipulated in the guidelines include that “the SIM must have been registered in accordance with the registration of telephone subscribers regulations issued by the commission; the subscriber requesting for the replacement must provide the following: information about the three most frequently called numbers from that SIM, which must be verified by the network service provider.
The frequently called numbers must have been dialed at least five times over 30 days. “Where the SIM to be replaced is a data SIM, the subscriber will be required to provide any two of the following: Last recharge amount and date, name of internet bundle value activated and data allowance allocated, last three sites visited, an affidavit signed by the subscriber and a passport photograph of the subscriber where the replacement is to be done by a proxy.”
However, the regulator did not specify which of the guidelines was breached by the operators. The regulator also stated in the guidelines that any SIM replacement done in violation of the rules would be sanctioned in accordance with the enforcement regulations.
“A network service provider shall be held liable for any SIM replacement carried out in violation of these regulations or done fraudulently by its agent or dealer. The subscriber can pursue any other remedies against a network service provider for any SIM replacement done fraudulently by such network service provider or its agent or dealer,” it added.