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Are the telecom operators taking us for a ride!

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued a direction to all Access Service providers, including BSNL and MTNL, amending its direction dated 27th April, 2009 on provision of value added services, for addressing the concerns of industry while protecting the interests of consumers with regard to explicit consent and for preventing accidental subscription to value added services.

To address the issue of unintentional/ accidental activation of value added services through pressing of certain key(s) in the telephone set/ mobile handset, the Authority had issued the Direction dated 27th April, 2009 on provision of value added services to customers, which inter-alia provide that the explicit consent of the customer shall be obtained through a customer originated call, SMS, interactive session to a specified number or request made in writing or by Fax or by e-mail.

Subsequent to the issue of the said direction, the Authority had received representations from the industry associations such as Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (AUSPI) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited that the direction could significantly harm and slow down the growth of value added services due to multi stage activation process and the delay in obtaining the explicit consent of the customer through a customer originated call, SMS, interactive session to a specified number, request made in writing or by Fax or by e-mail.

The Authority considered the matter, and worked out a solution which shall address the concern of the industry as well as protect the interest of consumers about ease of subscription to value added services and prevention of unintentional/ accidental activation of value added service. Accordingly the Authority has amended the direction dated 27th April, 2009. and This amendment provides an alternative procedure to “customer originated call, SMS, interactive session to a specified number or request made in writing or by Fax or by e-mail” for obtaining the explicit consent of the customer for subscribing to value added services. The amendment provide a process of confirmation by pressing key other than ‘*’ star) and ‘9’ keys to select the choice of the song and expression of interest to subscribe the service and reconfirmation to subscription to the value added service by pressing ‘*’ and ‘9’ keys in the case of subscription through OBD calls and pressing of two keys, ‘*’ (star) and ‘9’ keys, instead of only one key like ‘*’(star) key as in the case of “Press Star to Copy Hello Tune”, for subscription through copy tune facility.

The alternative procedure of double confirmation process provided in the amendment would not only obviate multistage activation process and resultant delay in the provision of value added services to the customers but also protect the customers against unintended or accidental activation of such value added services.

The amendment also mandates the service providers to intimate the subscriber, at least three days before the due date of renewal of a subscribed value added service, the due date for renewal, the charges for renewal and the toll free telephone number for un-subscribing of such value added service.

"This directive was issued yesterday, i doubt TRAI has solved the issue to fullest satisfaction of the consumer, for sure they have pleased the powerful lobbies; COAI and AUSPI.  I doubt the method described  above is fool proof, i am not convinced.  The private telecom operators have no doubt increased teledensity in india, but that doesn't mean they fleece consumers for what they don't want.  And also my other biggest problem is why the main stream papers/media fail to carry such useful directions from the government agencies.  This is not small issue because the money involved is huge.  Simple calculation will reveal...

Latest estimates for mobile phones in india: 450 million.

From my phone contacts, i have observed atleast ~ 1 in 5 using caller tunes on their phones, which works to be about 90 million people.  Assuming  1 in 10 caller tunes are activated accidently i.e 9 milllion people.

Initial cost for caller tune= Rs. 20 for activation that too accidentally!!

Recurring expense for a caller tune=30/month for the first month

Accidental change of caller tune, by key combination activation = Rs.20

Amount of money the operators fleece ~ = 20 * 9 million + 30 * 9 million = 450 million.

I agree that some of my assumption could been on the higher.  Because getting actual data would be difficult. A survey would give us exact data.  I game for simple survey on this on praja, i am sure with that data, we can get better numbers.

For your information 6 months ago, caller tunes was activated on my phone accidently, even after repeated complaints they said i have intentionally activated and i have to pay for it.  I tried to deactivate/complain but to no avail.  There is COAI and AUSPI to lobby on behalf of the operators but none for the consumers"

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