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NCC poised to ensure seamless digital experiences for telecoms consumers –ICAF

Mazi Akpa E. Emeka, Chairman of ICAF (far left); Prof. Umar Garba Danbatta, Executive Vice-Chairman and CEO of NCC (middle); and Other Stakeholders at the 2nd Quarter 2023 Open Forum in Ikeja, Lagos Photo: VON

*The Industry Consumer Advisory Forum,  established by the Nigerian Communications Commission to achieve its core mandate, affirms the Commission has continued to promote the interests of telecoms consumers against unfair practices with the availability of quality communications services, equipment and facilities in the Nigerian digital space

Gbenga Kayode | ConsumerConnect

In appreciating the regulatory excellence of the telecoms sector regulator in the Nigerian ecosystem, the Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF) has said the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC) is committed to effectively meeting consumers’ expectations in attaining seamless digital experiences.

ConsumerConnect reports Mazi Akpa E. Emeka, Chairman of ICAF, who stated this in his brief at the 2nd Quarter 2023 Open Forum of the organisation held in Lagos recently.

Delivering his address at the stakeholders’ engagement  forum with the theme, “Combating E-Fraud on Telecom Platform: Building Consumer Confidence in the Digital Economy”, Mazi Emeka affirm the NCC has continued to rally major industry stakeholders to identify and address vulnerabilities arising from new fraud methods and patterns in the Nigerian digital ecosystem.

The ICAF Chairman said noted the Nigerian Communications Act (NCA 2003) generally provides for the protection and promotion of interests of consumers, including Differently Abled Persons and the Elderly in the country.

According to him, pursuant to the NCA 2003, the Commission, driven by its Consumer-centric initiatives to ensure fair treatment as well as an acceptable Quality of Experience for consumers of ICT products and services, established the Industry Consumer Advisory Forum (ICAF).

Restating core objectives of ICAF

Emeka disclosed though the Forum is not completely independent of the telecoms sector regulatory Commission, ICAF has been established as part of the NCC’s strategy to achieve its mandate for protection and promotion of the interests of consumers against unfair practices.

These, he mentioned,  include but not limited to matters relating to tariffs and charges for the availability of quality communications services, equipment and facilities in the digital ecosystem.

While underlining the strategic importance of the 2023 Open Forum of the NCC, the ICAF Chief stated the stakeholders’ engagement “tends to bring together the regulators, service providers and consumers of telecommunication products and services.”

For activating its mandate of protecting consumers’ interests, Emeka further appreciated the NCC and relentless activities of ICAF members from diverse groups and organisations representing “esteemed consumers”.

He as well commended the ICAF members for coming up with the appropriate and timely theme for the 2nd Quarter 2023 Forum in Lagos.

He noted the theme was “apt and could not have come at a better time than now.”

E-commerce, increasing fraud and consumers’ digital experiences

Mazi Emeka also disclosed that fraud had escalated just as digital adoption has increased in the ecosystem.

On the need for stakeholders to continue to devise ways of protecting consumers, he said, the “situation requires that organisations simultaneously combat fraud and provide customers with a seamless digital experience.

“Digital adoption leapfrogged a decade in days during the COVID-19 pandemic, accelerating the shift to digital and multichannel client service that began in the 2010s.”

The Chairman of ICAF further explained the “pandemic-driven boost to e-commerce is estimated to have exceeded $200 billion in 2020 and 2021.

“Increased digital adoption has enabled new forms of fraudulent activity and amplified the importance of effective fraud management for promoting growth and meeting customers’ increasing expectations for digital experiences.”

Why stakeholders should redouble efforts at protecting digital ecosystem

The Chairman said though most companies had improved their digital user interface and experience, yet many have struggled to effectively enhance fraud controls without impairing the client experience.

Emeka revealed that several organisations report that they are being overwhelmed by the sheer volume of fraud attempts on their networks.

According to him, “in financial services, for example, many banks are so inundated by fraudsters that they cannot meet online origination targets; they are unable to verify identities and authenticate customers while combating fraud.”

Besides, he noted that fraud threat vectors have become significantly more sophisticated in recent times.

He stated these include nation-state actors, organised criminals, cyber terrorists, and insiders, as well as local fraud rings.

The Chairman affirmed that advances in technology present challenges as fraud attacks occur with greater frequency, speed, and effectiveness.

“Commonly used methods include phishing (Phishing occurs when a hacker pose as a trusted figure who uses carefully created emails to trick you into visiting a malicious website, downloading a corrupt file or handing over your password before using that information to gain access to a business network or your personal information), destructive malware, social engineering, deep fakes, and fraud-as-a-service exploit kits.

“Faster movement of money usually increases the risk of fraud, and real-time disbursements are set to double within the year and beyond as economic hardship gets tougher,” he noted in his address.

Explaining how some consumers fall victim to e-fraudsters, Emeka said: “Risk rises further when unsuspecting customers inadvertently share their authentication details with fraudsters targeting their devices and accounts.

“The evolution of fraud threats has undermined the effectiveness of a reactive approach to combating fraud, which essentially focuses on stopping schemes one by one through manual reviews.”

Tackling identified challenges to relieve consumers a great deal

The ICAF also restated that the 2023 2nd Quarter Open Forum held in Lagos had decided to discuss  the challenges as they affect  telecoms consumers “a great deal”.

Emeka said the Forum intended to propose a new approach on Combatting E-Fraud on the Telecommunication Platforms and ways of Building Consumer Confidence in the Digital Economy.

The ICAF and other industry stakeholders would  achieve this goal, using the current realities of this time to strengthen the core capabilities and improve abilities to continually identify and address vulnerabilities arising from new fraud methods and patterns, said the Chairman.

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