Unwanted Value Added Services (VAS) is one of the biggest concerns of mobile phone users in the country. Almost every subscriber we talked to has faced this problem at least once, especially prepaid subscribers.
Most customers we talked to complained that when they ask their service provider for a refund “the customer care agents say that the service was requested by the user and that they can’t refund. Else, they say you have been using the service for over a week and so we can’t refund.”
But if you prove that you didn’t request the service, the provider will have to refund no matter what.
According to our survey done by “The Mobile Indian”, the most abused service is caller ringback tone, which the subscriber doesn’t get to know of unless a caller tells him about it; ringback tones are followed by news and weather alert services. Even Rajan Mathews, president of COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) agrees to our survey results.
At a time when our SMS inbox is bombarded with unwanted SMSs it is easy to miss on the SMS informing us of the activation of a value added service, and news alerts get confused with all the other unwanted SMSs we get. It is only when ours balance is deducted that we realise that a service has been activated.
Another big problem is the fact that service providers now charge on a daily basis, so in case a Rupee has been deducted you don’t even realise it. All you can do is to be more vigilant and keep track of your balance.
You can also ask for an itemised bill for a pre-paid account in case you find anomalies. Though this will be chargeable to you (a maximum of Rs 50 as per TRAI guidelines), is a good tool in case you have to prove a case.
VAS services can only be activated by at least two key strokes, the first one to request the service and the second one to confirm the request.
So the first right that you have is to ask your service provider to show the records of your request, which it has to provide.
Rajan Mathews, blames unwanted activations on outsourced customer care. He said, “Most operators outsource VAS service activations and put a target for the activations. These outsourcing firms use illegal means to meet these targets.”
He adds that only 20 per cent of these companies are making the water muggy.
In case you are not happy with customer care’s response, you have all the right to approach the nodal officer, who is a direct employee of the operator and is responsible for solving all the customer complaints. You will find the number of the nodal officer on TRAI’s website. These numbers are also available on the service provider’s website in the ‘contact us’ and ‘customer care’ sections.
Do remember to email them and not just make a call. The mail will is documented proof of your interaction and complaint. You will need to give the nodal officer some time — usually the time that was specified by the nodal office during your interaction. The maximum time allowed for the nodal officer is one month.
While moving on to appellate authority, the highest authority for consumer complaints, again the complaint must be made in writing.
If you find that these people are not in the mood to listen and are just making excuses, do get in touch with the national consumer help line at 1800-11-4000 and register a complaint there. Then send the complaint number you receive to the nodal officer. This should pressurise the telecom company and moreover save you valuable time in case the issue is not resolved with the operator itself and you decide to follow the case further.
Most people do not follow up much on these cases as the money involved is too little for the hassle but as consumers we need to be more vigilant and should be more active in protecting our rights if these wrong practices are to be curbed.
To know more about your rights, you can also read the handbook for consumers by TRAI, which talks about consumer rights. Also, when you buy a new connection, you get a booklet, which usually contains all the rules and regulations you need to know. Besides, it also contains important numbers for you to contact in case of problems.