Better late than never! The Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI) has issued directions (pdf) for telecom service providers, on provision of Value Added Services. The directions intend to check the activation of VAS products especially on prepaid mobile connections, without the customer’s explicit consent. The TRAI also mentioned that it has been receiving complaints from consumers about providers renewing VAS products even when the available balance in the customer’s account is insufficient, resulting in negative balance.

The directives are as follows:

– In all cases where the value added services are activated through Out Bound Dialer or service provider initiated call or during pre-call ring-back announcements (both voice as well as automated) and where a consumer dials a specified telephone number or short code or a telephone number providing interactive session for subscribing to a Value Added Service, the service provider shall obtain confirmation from the consumer through consumer originated SMS or e-mail or FAX or in writing within twenty four hours of activation of the value added service and charge the consumer only if the confirmation is received from him for such value added service and shall discontinue such value added service if no confirmation is received from the consumer.

– Every service provider shall, at least three days before the due date of renewal of a subscribed value added service, inform the consumer through SMS, the due date for renewal of such service, the charges for renewal and toll free telephone number for unsubscribing the value added service.

– If there is insufficient balance in the account of a consumer at the time of renewal of subscription to a value added service, the service provider shall send a request, through SMS, to the consumer to indicate his consent for continuing such service by sending an SMS as “Yes” or “No” to a toll free number and if, in response to such request, the consumer indicates his explicit consent by conveying “Yes”, such value added service shall be renewed and such consumer shall be informed by the service provider through SMS that the charges for renewal of subscription of value added service shall be deducted from subsequent recharge.

We welcome the directives pertaining to negative billing, and the requirement for the customer’s explicit consent. Infact, we had suggested the same, when we reported about Airtel’s new guidelines for subscription services. However, we feel that the TRAI should also issue guidelines on consumer grievances related to false billing, wherein subscribers are charged for services they never activated.

P.S – As I write this post, Airtel, which had activated Airtel Friendz Chat service on my mobile number, without my consent, has renewed it for 20 days, even when my credit balance was insufficient.

Airtel Issues New Guidelines For Billing For Subscription Services