The Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) allayed the fears of telecom subscribers over plans by telecom operators to increase call, data, and SMS tariffs by 40 per cent.
While acknowledging that the operators might have justifiable reason for the request which was sent to it in a letter, the Commission said there would not be any cost review in the telecom sector until empirical studies are conducted to ascertain if increments are necessary.
The Commission in a statement signed by its Director of Public Affairs, Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, that operators will not effect any tariff increase without the approval of the regulator. According to NCC, the current tariff regime being administered by the service providers is a product of its “determination in the past.”
The Commission in the statement explained that: “Consistent with international best practice and established regulatory procedures, the NCC ensures its regulatory activities are guided by regular cost-based and empirical studies to determine the appropriate cost (upper and floor price) within which service providers are allowed to charge their subscribers for services delivered.”
“The Commission ensures that any cost determined, as an outcome of such transparent studies is fair enough to enhance healthy competition among operators, provide wider choices for the subscribers as well as ensure sustainability of the Nigerian telecoms industry,” it added.
“For the avoidance of any doubt, and contrary to MNOs' agitation to increase tariffs for voice and Short Messaging Services (SMS) by a certain percentage, the Commission wishes to categorically inform telecoms subscribers and allay the fears of Nigerians that no tariff increase will be effected by the operators without due regulatory approval by the Commission.
“It is noteworthy that tariff regulations and determinations are made by the Commission in line with the provisions of Sections 4, 90, and 92 of the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA) 2003, which entrusts the Commission with the protection and promotion of the interests of subscribers against unfair practices including but not limited to; matters relating to tariffs and charges.
“However, while there could be justifiable reasons for MNOs' demand for tariff increase, it should be noted that they are not allowed to do such either individually or collectively without recourse to NCC, following the outcome of a cost study. This is not the case for now,” the NCC stated.
The telecom operators under the auspices of the Association of Licensed Telecommunications Operators of Nigeria (ALTON), had last week written a letter to the Commission seeking permission to increase tariffs by 40 per cent. The operators cited high cost of running their operations as the major reason for their proposed tariff hike.