The plan to stop spam texts from Nigerian phone networks sounded too good to be true—because it is

Mobile networks are finding a way around a new policy to stop spam texts.
Mobile networks are finding a way around a new policy to stop spam texts.
Image: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko
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Barely a week after the Nigeria Communications Commission (NCC) directed mobile networks in the country to provide their subscribers with a ‘do not disturb’ (DND) code to stop unsolicited promotional spam texts, major flaws are appearing in the plan.

The upshot? Nigerians are still getting spammed even after registering to not be disturbed.

News of the feature was well received by Nigerians who have long protested the nuisance of unsolicited promotional texts—and sometimes, calls—as well as being signed up to subscription-based information services without express approval. It is not unusual to receive two to three messages a day.

As Nigerian tech blog Tech Cabal reported there is a loophole in the plan which allows the phone networks to continue to send marketing messages because they argue the rules do not apply to them, but to their third party  partners.

MTN, the country’s largest operator, says it retains the right to send promotional messages to its 58 million subscribers as the DND feature “will only be introduced for third party services“, referring to value added service (VAS) companies who market and monetize information services. Making a similar claim, Etisalat, Nigeria’s fourth biggest network, implied that the feature will not preclude it from sending its own promotional texts because it said it is activating DND only “covers third party VAS providers.”

Given this caveat, much of the elation over the feature has dissipated as a significant number of promotional texts come from the mobile operators as they market new data plans and call rates. Noticing the futility of activating the feature, mobile users have taken to social media to complain that they continue to receive promotional texts despite activating the DND feature.

While glitches and loopholes currently remain despite the new policy, for what it’s worth, a conversation about privacy-related matters and data protection is a step in the right direction although, clearly, many Nigerians will think its not moving at a fast enough pace.