Business News of 2014-01-13

Mobile operators implement billing feedback system

Mobile phone users who are on pre-paid tariff plans will henceforth be able to see their charges and the duration of calls they make immediately after they sign off.
This is because the National Communication Authority (NCA) has directed all mobile network operators to implement a system known as ‘Billing Feedback’ for their pre-paid subscribers.
After a call, the system sends a message to every pre-paid subscriber of all the mobile networks detailing the duration, rate per minute, the cost of all mobile activities and in addition indicating their credit balance.
This follows numerous and continuous complaints subscribers lodged with the mobile telecom operators as well as the NCA on billing and credit issues.
The Director General of the NCA, Mr Paarock VanPercy, told the Daily Graphic in an interview that the measure would affect only pre-paid subscribers as post-paid subscribers already received itemised bills from their service providers.
Last November, the NCA directed all the telcos in the country, namely MTN, Vodafone, Airtel, tiGO, Glo and Expresso, to institute a Billing Feedback Message (BFM) using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD).
Mr VanPercy said the billing feedback would enable consumers to track and manage their credit usage and also satisfy their statutory right to request and access information on their bills.
“This system is a necessity as consumers subscribe to various promotions and packages and often complain that they are being ripped off. Implementation of this will also go a long way in promote transparency and accuracy between the mobile network operators and their subscribers,” he said.
According to Mr VanPercy, the beauty of the system was that the messages were not stored on the user’s phone and the subscriber would not face the issue of clogged SMS inboxes on their phones.
The customer does not also need any special settings or configuration on his or her mobile phone to access this service, regardless of the phone the customer is using, provided the customer is connected to the mobile operator.
The message, which is a Flash Message, is deleted automatically by pressing any key on the phone after reading and it comes at no cost to the subscriber.
“It is absolutely free and it requires no subscription to receive the billing feedback message service,” the NCA director-general explained.
On the status of implementation, Mr VanPercy said all the networks were at various stages of implementation.
Vodafone has since January 8 this year implemented three components of the BFM, but were yet to include the ‘per minute rate for the activity’.
While MTN has embarked on a batch implementation to be rolled out soon to all MTN pre-paid subscribers, tiGO would be on board by February 1, this year, a statement from the NCA said.
It said Airtel, which had been offering the service with two of the components since its inception, would be fully compliant by including the per minute rate and the duration of the activity.
The NCA has requested for a situational report from Glo which is yet to begin implementation. Expresso, being the only CDMA network, cannot use the USSD platform. The CDMA network is, therefore, working on coming out with an alternative system.
Mr VanPercy commended the networks for their cooperation, saying “both the regulator and operators have a joint interest in ensuring the best of service to consumers.”
He expressed the hope that by the end of the first quarter of the year, the directive would be fully complied with by all network operators.
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