Unsolicited text messages: We should all sue our telcos

by | Jun 15, 2017

As we enjoy the benefits of an interconnected world, telcos gain access to sensitive information which is at the risk of being misused or abused.  Telcos in Nigeria are known to disregard consumer’s privacy by flooding them with unwanted promotional messages and other unsolicited messages from third party services.

In a bid to curb the annoying numbers of unsolicited messages that Nigerian subscribers have to deal with, the Nigeria Communications Commission  (NCC) implemented the “Do Not Disturb policy” that gives subscribers control over the type of third party marketing messages  they want to receive from service providers or to completely stop receiving any unsolicited messages entirely.

According to the NCC, about 4 million telecom subscribers have activated the DND code on their lines between February and April 2017. However, activating the DND code did not always solve the problem as some subscribers still receive unsolicited messages from service providers. This caused the NCC to launch a toll-free number “622” where telecom customers can launch complaints directly to the commission.

However, some telecom subscribers are taking the fight beyond the NCC by following the initial directive of the commission to sue service providers for sending them unsolicited messages.

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Last year, a Federal High Court in Abuja imposed a ₦5 million fine on Airtel Nigeria after a subscriber, Emmanuel Anene, filed a case against them for continuous disturbance through unsolicited text messages to his phone number.

Only recently, there was victory for an MTN Nigeria subscriber, Godfrey Eneye, who filed a case against the company for sharing his subscriber information with third party service providers.  Despite MTN’s claim that it did not disclose the subscriber’s detail to third parties, the Court of Appeal held the ruling of the Federal High Court in Abuja and awarded Godfrey Eneye, a lawyer, the sum of ₦3 million as damages.

According to Punch, Justice Agim, who gave the verdict at a Court of Appeal in Abuja  said;

“By giving those unknown persons and organisations access to the respondent’s MTN GSM phone number, to send text messages into it, the appellant violated the respondent’s fundamental right to privacy guaranteed by Section 37 of the Constitution which includes the right to the privacy of a person’s telephone line

“The said Section 37 of the 1999 Constitution provides that, ‘The privacy of citizens, their homes, correspondence, telephone conversations and telegraphic conversations is hereby guaranteed and protected’.

“The innumerable text messages without his consent at all times is a violation of his fundamental right to the privacy of his telephone conversations, correspondence and his person and telephone line and telephone message inbox.”

For so long, telcos have deliberately abused the rights of their customers, provided by the Nigerian constitution, despite complaints from customers and actions taken by the NCC to put them on track. It is however great to see some telecom subscribers stand for their rights and to have the court uphold these rights.

Telecom consumers seem to be winning this war against telcos and getting reasonable compensation while at it. Maybe we should join the train.

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Onyinye Uche
Onyinye Uche

Writer. Interested in EdTech and tech careers


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