NCA accorded Alpha Lotto Ltd fair hearing in code non-renewal decision – Electronic Communications Tribunal

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    The Electronic Communications Tribunal has ruled that the National Communications Authority (NCA) accorded Alpha Lotto Limited a fair hearing per its decision not to renew the latter’s shortcode. Thus the NCA did not breach the audi alteram partem rule of natural justice.

    The Tribunal in its September 1, 2021 ruling, therefore, dismissed the appeal brought before it by Alpha Lotto Limited.

    Alpha Lotto Limited, a lotto operator brought an appeal against the National Communications Authority (NCA) at the Electronic Communications Tribunal.

    The above action was informed by a decision of the National Communications Authority (NCA) not to process the re-application for the assignment of a Short Code(*896#) to Alpha Lotto Limited until the latter provided evidence of licensure to operate lotto by the National Lottery Authority (NLA).

    Background

    Alpha Lotto Limited was issued a license by the National Lottery Authority (NLA) on July 1, 2020, to sell lotto products or games through Point of Sale Terminals (POST) and on the Internet on the World Wide Web via Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD).

    Subsequently, Alpha Lotto was issued with a short code *896# by the National Communications Authority (NCA) with an effective date of 19 March 2020 and an expiration date of 18 March 2021.

    However, on February 15, 2021, the National Lottery Authority (NLA) wrote a letter to the National Communications Authority (NCA) to request the shutdown of the shortcode (*896#) of Alpha Lotto Limited because it was uneventfully using the shortcode.

    In a month and a week away from the expiration of its shortcode, Alpha Lotto wrote to the NCA for a renewal of the certificate of authority in respect of the shortcode and paid the requisite fee.

    Notwithstanding, the shortcode was promptly suspended on all the relevant networks.

    After a failed ‘battle of letters’, Alpha Lotto Limited appealed the decision of the National Communication Authority (NCA) at the Electronic Communications Tribunal.

    There were two grounds for the appeal. They were;

    i.That the refusal of the National Communications Authority to renew Alpha Lotto Limited’s Short Code *896# without giving Alpha Lotto Limited a hearing is in breach of the audi alterampartem rule thus a breach of the rules of natural justice.

    ii. That the decision is against the weight of the evidence.

    The above grounds were denied by the respondent, insisting that it did not breach the rules of natural justice by requiring the appellant to submit additional information required for the processing of Alpha Lotto’s renewal application.

    Therefore the Tribunal which was chaired by Kissi Agyebeng and consisted of Naa Odofoley Nortey and Dr.Ezer Osei Yeboah-Boateng held that the NCAs insistence on the production by Alpha Lotto Limited of an industry regulator certification as a condition precedent for renewal of the operation of the shortcode was not in breach of the audi alteram partem rule.

    Further to the above, it ruled that the above requirement was reasonable and it afforded the appellant decent notice and an opportunity to produce the authorization for certification.

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