SINGAPORE – Soon, consumers will no longer be charged for telco services they are unaware of. Telcos will need to get the customer’s agreement first before charging them for services after the trial period ends.
The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore has unveiled a revised Telecom Competition Code which takes effect on Jan 21. It follows IDA’s second triennial review, which included consultation exercises.
Under the new law, telcos will no longer be allowed to automatically charge consumers once a free trial service has ended. They would also need to get consumers to agree first before charging them. Currently, such terms and conditions are buried in the fine print of a service contract.
Reiterating that its intent was “not to stop the free trials”, which could be beneficial to consumers, IDA said the new requirement was introduced “due to increasing number of complaints received by IDA from consumers”.
Welcoming the move, student Vincent Wang, 20, suggested that companies “take the proactive stance of giving reminders one month before the trial date expires”.
Ms Soh Xin Jie, a civil servant, added that the new law was overdue. Said Ms Soh, 24: “It is difficult for users to keep track of nitty gritty details like trial dates expiry.”
Under the amended Code, telcos cannot “cross-terminate” a consumer’s agreement; that is, if one has a cable TV and mobile contract with a telco, and the consumer disputes charges for the cable TV contract, for example, the telco cannot threaten to terminate the consumer’s mobile contract or vice-versa.
This is applicable to all contracts, except for those sold under a single bundle or offered under the same service agreement.
The IDA reiterated that consumers’ right to enjoy a basic telephone service will also be protected unless there is a breach of the agreement of the telephone service itself.
SingTel and StarHub said they would be studying the changes. A SingTel spokesman noted it had provided its views during the course of the IDA’s public consultation process while a StarHub spokesperson pointed out the existing Code “already contains a requirement that ‘the end user will not be required to pay for any telecommunication service that the end user did not consent to receiving’.”
The spokesperson added: “With regard to the topic of charging after a free trial, we would like to note that we do not charge our customers after a free trial of their service has ended, unless we have consent from them.”