Nigerian telcos and the terrible, horrible, no good, very bad tale of “text STOP to 2442”

Lying

We all shouted hurrah that day. Or at least, I did, when I saw a tweet from the Nigerian Communications Commission say that all our troubles were over – the Do-Not-Disturb code: STOP to 2442 would put an end to those pesky marketing messages from Nigerian telcos. What a nuisance, those messages. At a point they became so bad that people started to make jokes about knowing you’re single when the only good morning texts you receive are from your telco. Hell, someone even started a Change.org petition to try to get them to stop.

Things didn’t change though, until recently, when the Hon. Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu complained about receiving some of those “embarrassing” texts, himself. According to the THISDAY article I read…

“…such unsolicited messages are embarrassing because they are transmitted as bulk messages and in most cases, the messages hit the mobile phones of subscribers at a time when subscribers are expecting important messages, only for them to open their phones to see all manners of promotional messages that are annoying to read because they make no meaningful impact on their lives.”

The minister issued them a stern warning and noted that telcos were making a ton of money from charging customers for services they did not subscribe to. The telcos responded by denying any involvement in the racket, blaming the entire thing on VAS (Value-Added Services) providers. Fast forward a few months, and the DND code has finally been implemented. Customers of any telco who send STOP to 2442, or any of the other filter codes will have their numbers entered into a DND list/database. A dark, air conditioned, soundproof room, of sorts, where no one can disturb your sleep.

All is well with the world, right? No. The part of this much-publicised DND list that no one is talking about is that it does not include promotional messages from the telcos themselves. I found myself on MTN’s DND webpage this morning and I saw something interesting (Elroy from Mobility Arena noted it as well).

In response to the FAQ, “What is Do Not Disturb service?”, MTN responded, “The Do-Not-Disturb service allows MTN customers to opt out of receiving promotional messages for 3rd Party services (Bulk SMS, VAS promos, etc.)”. And in response to the FAQ, “Are promotional messages for MTN services included in the DND?”, MTN said, “NO. DND service will only be introduced for 3rd party services e.g. VAS, Bulk SMS etc.”
MTN DNDTranslation: we are going to throw our Value-Added Services partners under the bus, while creating more space in our subscribers’ inboxes for our own promotional messages, and the NCC is going to help us do it. This is interesting because most of my gripe is with the messages sent from THE TELCOS themselves.

For some balance, I went to Etisalat and Airtel’s DND webpages to see what they had to say about the matter, and I found nothing valuable. Neither of them says anything about whether their own promotional messages are included in the spam ban. Glo? It’s either they don’t have a DND webpage/FAQ, or I’m too stupid to find it using their search bar and sitenav. I really don’t think I’m stupid.

I have reached out to the telcos for comment, but these are the facts as I know them. Make of them, what you will. *adjusts Tinfoil hat*

Etisalat. "Third party"

“Third party”

Update 10:58am, July 11, 2016. Airtel has replied to say that the code affects ALL unsolicited messages. That leaves MTN, Glo and Etisalat.

Update 11:31am, July 11, 2016. Etisalat has replied to say that “DND covers 3rd party VAS providers’.