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TRAI proposes that telcos provide data usage info and customer consent alerts

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The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released a draft called the “Telecom Consumers Protection (Eighth Amendment) Regulations, 2015” where it has proposed that telcos provide data usage info, alerts on usage of 50, 90 and 100 percent usage and explicit customer consent for activating and deactivating data services.

The TRAI states in its paper (pdf) that it has been receiving several complaints from customers with regard to non availability of information with respect to the data usage in a data session. Since the tariff for data when the a data pack expires (data usage is charged through talktime balance) is higher (for example 3paisa/kb), customers are unaware of their data pack expiry and hence end up shelling a lot more money than they had planned to use initially.

It adds that since sometimes, activation of internet services is done without their consent, they end up incurring bills of large amounts. The complaints also included GPRS getting activated on feature phones without their users’ consent. It said that for these, too, explicit consumer consent was necessary in order to activate or deactivate data services.

To fix this, it has proposed the above measures for service providers to inform its customers via SMS or USSD when data services are activated via special tariff vouchers, combo vouchers or add on packs, when a 5GB limit has been reached. It also added that post the expiry of the data pack, telcos should inform the users about the tariffs applicable and send an alert when a user is on international roaming to deactivate data services on his/her phone if the user does not want to use data on international roaming. It went on to specify that telcos should send a SMSes at periodic intervals (not exceeding 6 months) informing the users about the data deactivation procedure.

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In February this year, TRAI had directed all telecom operators to publish the details of SMS based services offered and tariffs of such services on their homepage, and ensure that any changes be updated immediately. It said that telecom operators were violating the instructions issued by the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) in regards to the use of short codes, special characters and the provisions of the National Numbering Plan, though the nature of the violations was not specified. Telcos were even asked to submit information regarding each shortcode to TRAI within 10 days of every quarter-end, starting with the quarter ending March 31, 2015.

In November last year, the TRAI had directed all telecom service providers to ensure that all pay-per-use value added services (VAS) pre-loaded on SIM cards be activated only after obtaining explicit consumer consent. Telcos had till January 13, 2015 to comply with this directive. Consumer complaints regarding activation of VAS without consent received by TRAI revealed that in most cases these VAS products were related to the ones pre-loaded on SIM cards, which the consumer might have accidentally or unknowingly clicked and got charged for. The consumer wasn’t provided the opportunity to agree or decline to proceed.

Image credit: Flickr user Pieter Ouwerkerk

Also read: Mobile VAS fraud is back

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