Telecom operators have to take double confirmation from consumers before activating value added services (VAS) and must complete de-activation requests in four hours, sectoral regulator Trai said.
Activation of VAS by service providers has been a cause of customer complaints and was a major worry for Trai as well. Issuing new stringent guidelines for VAS, Trai said: "The service provider has to provide a system which takes a second consent from the customer before providing a value added service through any means," the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said in a statement.
As per Trai, the operators can take the first consent of the consumer on their platform but for the second consent, a dedicated gateway, which is owned by a third party, has to be set up to take the final confirmation.
"The first offer of a service is on the service providers’ platform and a second confirmation from the customer is through a dedicated consent gateway which is owned by a third party and not by the service provider," Trai said.
"It is only after receiving a second confirmation from the customer, that the service provider shall activate the value added service," it added. Trai said VAS activation procedure will include all forms of activation such as outbound dialling (OBD), SMS, Mobile Internet, interactive voice response system, tele-calling, unstructured supplementary services data (USSD) and any other mode of activation.
Trai also mandated de-activation requests should be completed in four hours. The deactivation procedure should be publicised through advertisements in newspapers, updation on the website and SMSes. The consumers can register complaints about wrongful activation of VAS on a toll-free common number, 155223.
"In case of wrong activation, the amount shall be refunded within 24 hours of the customer's request. Such customer requests should be within 24 hours for VAS with validity of more than one day and within 6 hours for VAS with validity of one day," Trai said.
The guidelines also said 24 hours before auto renewals, customers should be provided the information through SMS and OBD before 24 hours.
"In case of USSD and SMS mode of activation, no activation response time should be greater than 10 seconds and 60 minutes respectively and in case of non-response, the same should be treated as ‘no activation required’," Trai said.
The Authority also said upon activation of VAS, the de-activation number, the validity of the VAS and charges for renewal should be explicitly informed. "Monthly report on activations, de-activations and complaints received and their redressal to be submitted to TRAI," the telecom regulator said.
Earlier, on July 4, 2011 Trai had directed telecom operators to obtain explicit consent of consumers "through consumer originated SMS or e-mail or FAX or in writing within 24 hrs of activation of the value added service and charge the consumer only if confirmation is received from him".
The industry had objected to this direction and estimated Rs 12,000 crore (Rs 120 billion) revenue loss and over 10,000 job cuts complying with the direction. After failing to convince the regulator, industry body representing GSM players COAI approached telecom tribunal TDSAT but lost could not succeed. As per the rule, operators had to take consent of subscribers before activating any VAS and deactivate it without charging for it if no consent was received from them.