Telcos under investigation for unfair pricing, as FCCPC pledges fairness, sanity

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The Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (FCCPC) has pledged to ensure consumer protection and the elimination of unfair business practices amongst capitalist corporations, in the wake of the recent intent by the telecommunications companies to increase tariff.

Babatunde Irukera, the Executive Vice-Chairman/Chief Executive Officer of the Federal Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, made this known on Monday via an interview on AriseTV, monitored by Ripples Nigeria.

Telecommunication businesses represented by the Association of Licensed Telecom Operators of Nigeria (ALTON) had requested price increases for voice calls, SMS, and data last week.

ALTON wrote to the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) in a letter noting the rising cost of doing business.

According to ALTON, the proposed price rise for calls will go from N6.4 to N8.95, while the price cap for SMS will go from N4 to N5.61.

However, the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) has rejected the telecoms companies’ request to raise call, internet, and SMS rates by 40%.

While conceding that the operators may have a valid rationale for the request, the Commission stated that there will be no cost review in the telecom sector until empirical studies are done to determine whether increases are required.

Read also: Telcos may be justified to increase tariff for calls, data, but… —NCC

In a statement signed by Dr. Ikechukwu Adinde, the Commission’s Director of Public Affairs, allayed telecom consumers’ anxieties, stating that operators will not hike tariffs without the regulator’s approval.

Irukera, during the AriseTV interview on Monday, further espoused and corroborated the NCC’s stance regarding consumers’ protection.

According to the FCCPC CEO, the telcos were in flagrant violation of market forces due to their arbitrary decision to raise prices, eliminating competition in the process at the risk of economic destabilisation.

“People should understand that we are not a price control organisation but we encourage competition in order for markets to be sanity but the telcos eliminated competition by increasing tariff — that is a flagrant violation of the market and an investigation is ongoing into the matter.

“Why are they coming together to ask for an en bloc price increase? We can only understand the pulse of the market if the barriers are eliminated. This is why it is a crime for these competitors to band together in order to arbitrarily increase the prices of their services,” Irukera clarified.

He further weighed into the recent reversal of the Airlines Operators of Nigeria regarding a shutdown in business activities due to rising operating costs as evidenced by the high price of Aviation fuel.

On Sunday, the AON called off their planned suspension of flights which was billed to commence on Monday, 9 May.

Only a day before the suspension of flights was scheduled to begin, the association announced that it was postponing the decision due to national economic and security concerns.

In the interview, Irukera said, “It is a violation for stakeholders to restrict competition and constrict supply which is why the commission must ensure a level playing ground with respect to competition laws.

“There are discussions regarding the various issues and we recognize the grouse of the AON considering the cost of aviation fuel but we must understand that the sector is crucial to the economy which is why we sought to avoid a shutdown.

“This is via a series of meetings with the stakeholders and we find a methodical way to redressing it. The commission also relaxed certain rules in order to facilitate activities and encourage supply. We want competitors to work together to ensure a predictable and fair supply chain.

“Operating in a fair and responsible manner is important which is why there are rules towards compensating passengers. However, there are exceptions to the rules when there are situations outside the control of the airlines such as weather and supply constraints but there must be transparency and mutual trust amongst stakeholders. Customers can lodge complaints in our portal but we must ensure an industry-wide intervention towards protecting the consumers.”

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