#StopTheAirtimeLoot: Telcos, VAS providers taking steps to end airtime vanishing


    The #StopTheAirtimeLoot campaign has chalked another success as telcos and their value-added service (VAS) providers start taking steps towards bringing an end to the over 12 years of airtime vanishing via unsolicited electronic communication (UEC).

    Techgh24 can confirm that the Ghana Chamber of Telecommunications (GCT) organized a zoom meeting on Tuesday, February 8, 2022, where representatives of the telcos and their VAS providers discussed how to ensure good governance in VAS operations and how to embark on public education going forward.

    In that regard, the meeting proposed two committees – one for customer education and the other to come up with guidelines for good governance in the VAS space, particularly the paid VAS services.

    This move comes on the back of a directive by the National Communications Authority (NCA) to all industry players to, among other things, adhere to the Code of Conduct on UECs, which require them to be transparent in their onboarding practices and also never to send communication to any customer without the person’s request/consent.

    The NCA also directed them to initiate a two-step verification process, where a valid request from a customers is confirmed through a reply to the customer to approve before they are signed on to any subscription.

    The regulator also said, outside of whatever the telcos and VAS players will do, it has also collaborated to the Data Protection Commission to ensure that no subscriber receives any electronic communication without their express consent.

    It warned that a violation of the directive will attract sanctions as stated in the law.

    All this came after months of intensive public education campaign by Techgh24 and Squeakgh, during which several calls were made to the NCA, both publicly and privately to intervene and protect the consumer because the telcos were not doing a good job on that, even though they are required by law to.

    The calls culminated in a petition to the NCA, ahead of which Techgh24 had already received assurances from the regulator that it was working assiduously to deal with the problem.

    Indeed, in separate interactions with telco executives on that matter, they each admitted to Techgh24 that the VAS onboarding process was being circumvented, except that they pointed fingers at their third-party VAS providers and promised to deal with them.

    That narrative was not different from what the CEO of GCT, Dr. Ken Ashigbey was also reported as saying – that third-party VAS player directly licensed by the NCA were the ones circumventing the process and not telcos.

    Here are his exact words:

    “There are third parties who have been given licenses by the NCA and it’s true most of them do not go through the process.”

    Meanwhile, the GCT CEO said the move to sanitize the VAS space started from when the Chamber held its 18th Knowledge Forum in the runup to the 2020 elections, when political parties started sending unsolicited political campaign messages to people’s phones.

    It is however important to note that political campaign messages came at no financial cost to customers, but there are some 95 paid services that are responsible for the problem of airtime vanishing from people’s phones.

    Customer Service Staff

    While the telcos and VAS players are preparing to do public education, which Techgh24 has been doing for several months now, some telco customer service persons are still pointing fingers at their third-party VAS providers any time customers call and complain about UECs.

    In a recent case, a customer service person at MTN told a subscriber that short code 1120, which sent a message about TASTY MEALZ to a customer, belonged to Hubtel. But Hubtel denied ownership of that short code.

    Another MTN customer service person claimed MTN does not know where the request for a paid VAS content came from, even though the law places the duty on telcos to know and to retain records of all VAS transactions for future reference.

    It is expected that as part of the public education project, the Customer Service staff of the telcos will also be reoriented to stop giving customers false information and to stop pointing fingers at their third-party partners.

    The Customer Service staff must be made to understand that the law holds telcos entirely responsible for what their VAS providers do, and telcos also get the lion’s share of the VAS revenue, so they cannot keep pointing fingers at third-party VAS providers whenever there is an issue.


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