Friday, July 15, 2011

TRAI - New VAS directives - VAS ad Telecos disappointed

Considering the interest of mobile phone consumers of country, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on July 4th issued some strong directives to the telecom operators on the procedure of providing Value Added Services (VAS) to the end users. However, these directives would affect revenues of Telcos who are already battling falling ARPUs and are eying improved incomes after the launch of 3G services, the major attraction of which are the lucrative VAS services.

TRAI has rolled out the directives under 9 clauses in its statement. In its clause it says, All Cellular Mobile Service Providers and Unified Access Service Providers are directed that no chargeable value added service shall be provided to a customer without his explicit consent and that any value added service, which was earlier being provided free of charge, shall not be made chargeable without the explicit consent of the customer.

The regulator in its other directive has said that incidences have been brought to the notice of the authority where value added services have been renewed to prepaid consumers even in cases where available balance in consumer account was insufficient for the renewal of VAS resulting in negative balance.

To prevent automatic renewal of a VAS, TRAI has also asked the telcos to provide prior notice of three days to the concerned subscriber asking whether the service should be renewed or not.

TRAI also says that 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 tollfree telephone number for unsubscribing the value added service.

“If, in response to such request, the consumer indicates his explicit consent by conveying “Yes”, such VAS shall be renewed and such consumer shall be informed through SMS the charges for renewal of subscription of value added service shall be deducted from subsequent recharge,” Trai said.

However, most of the TRAI’s directives seem okay with the Telcos but the most controversial and unacceptable is the 9th Clause, in which TRAI says that 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.

Now this point is receiving negative remarks from the operators as they find it practically unfeasible to receive any such confirmation from the side of consumer in written form. In an effort to find industry people’s view on this point, insightVAS came to know that the subscriber would probably not want any further correspondence in this regard and he/she would definitely not waste his/her time in writing an email or sending a fax back to the operators. Moreover, in many remote areas the facility and basic infrastructure for sending an email is not accessible.

Most subscribers are still deprived of the internet facility while on the move, how they will be able to respond on such queries while moving.

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