By Ramatoulie Jawo
The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) has launched a policy for Gambia’s telecommunication sector dubbed ‘Do-Not-Disturb’.
The policy restricts the telecom operators from sending “unsolicited” messages to their subscribers without their prior consent.
Solo Sima, Director of Consumer Affairs at PURA said at the inception of GSM operations in the Gambia in 2001, subscribers received Short Message Service (SMS) from telecom operators.
“This medium was used, when the Operators wanted to pass vital information such as network failures in some parts of the country and when they would be fixed. As a result, subscribers received SMS on new coverage areas, especially during expansion by operators to new areas,” he added.
The Director of Consumer Affairs at PURA said over the years, telecommunication services as for the use of delivery of business services increased, and operators on behalf of their business clients began to send bulk SMS to subscribers on their networks as it was not only seen as a marketing tool, but also as a value-added service.
“As a result, consumers received unsolicited promotional SMS across networks, with subscribers sometimes receiving up to 10 or 12 SMS from some operators in a day, which overloaded their phone storage capacity, and became drain/nuisance,” he said.
Director Sima revealed that interventions by consumers are what led to the formulation of the ‘Do Not Disturb’ (DND) guideline that seeks to empower consumers, and ensure that such messages and services sent to them are solicited.
“From today, consumers will be given the power to choose, either to receive or not receive SMS or value-added texts, automated voice calls and direct marketing calls. A unique short-code dubbed 1040 has been created, which will be used by all service providers as a means to actualize the request of consumers as it pleases them,” said Sima.
He warned that failure to honour the request of consumers by any operator, would attract punitive action to the tune of D50,000 per infraction, for the said operator.
Amadou Ceesay, Executive Secretary, Gambia Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, (GCCPC) was also at the ceremony.
He said GCCPC had signed an MoU with PURA as the regulatory sector to make sure when even his institution receives complaints from the consumers, they would refer it to PURA first, and work with them to solve the complaints.
The GCCPC leader added that they would work with PURA to protect the consumers as per a the Competition Consumers Act 2014 that protects the rights of the consumers.
The ceremony took at PuRA office on Karaiba avenue on Thursday.