TRCSL tightens grip on telcommunication’s value-added services
- Mandates telcos to OTP verify before activating services
- Service must be available in all three languages
- If activated without user consent, operator must refund
- Non-adherence to be deemed consumer protection violation
By Madhusha Thavapalakumar
Keeping a full stop for customer complaints on telecommunication service providers activating value-added services (VAS) on their connections without the consent of the customer and making it difficult for them to deactivate them, the Telecommunication Regulatory Commission of Sri Lanka (TRCSL) issued a set of guidelines for telecommunication service providers to follow when providing VAS, yesterday (19).
The TRCSL noted that it has been informed that a significant number of customers complain over the years in terms of disputes of subscriptions as well as billing by the operators and it has initiated proceedings to ensure a stringent legal and regulatory framework for VAS for mandatory adherence by all telecommunications operators.
Accordingly, based on successful validation of activation of a service by a subscriber, reconfirmation should be initiated with an OTP (one-time password) mechanism for reconfirmation of the subscription by the subscriber.
Operators should make available the VAS information in all three languages – Sinhala, Tamil, and English – and allow subscribers to choose the VAS information in a preferred language.
Before activating any type of VAS, the operator should provide information such as VAS name, terms, and conditions, charges including tax (billing frequency if daily, weekly, monthly), subscription tenure of service, and deactivation method to the subscriber using the subscriber’s preferred language.
“No VAS may be promoted as being free if it involves any charges whatsoever to the consumer even at a later date. There should be no hidden charges. Any associated charges for services rendered should be clearly disclosed upfront at the point of subscription by the subscriber,” the guideline explained.
The TRCSL further noted that all activated VAS enrolled by the subscriber should be followed up with a message at each time the subscriber is charged based on the opted billing cycle.
“The message should include a link to unsubscribe the service based on the discretion of the subscriber. This message is mandatory to be sent to all subscribers at the point of each recursive billing charge initiated on the subscriber. This should be retrospectively applied to all VAS activated previous to this guideline on subscribers.”
Operators are also required not to share the subscriber’s ownership details including connection numbers with third-party content service providers without the express consent of the subscriber.
In addition, with regard to prepaid subscribers, if the subscriber disputes, and the operator identified that VAS were activated without their consent the amount charged has to be refunded to the subscriber within three working days (for per day chargeable VAS) and within five working days (for other VAS) from the reporting date of the complaint.
This guideline is applicable for licensed mobile operators and the TRCSL stated that they should be adhered to strictly and any noncompliance would be deemed as a violation of the directives provided for consumer protection by the regulator in terms of VAS.