Hyderabad: In the name of Value Added Services (VAS) like ringtones, messages and chatting, several offers are getting activated for customers of Airtel, BSNL, Vodafone and other telecom services without the consent of the user.
Even stopping such services is difficult. The user receives a message saying that a particular service has been activated and that Rs 10 a day, Rs 25 or Rs 3 was charged to phone balance. It also says “to stop the service dial 155223”. But when a user does that, he/she is bombarded with several other options making it even more difficult to stop a simple service. You then get a message saying VAS service is not activated, or get another option to press a number (like 1 or 2) and that too fails to stop the service.
Nearly all telecom operators resort to unscrupulous ways of activating VAS and making subscribers pay extra. They often try to flash VAS offers because of which many customers without noticing are giving explicit consent.
G Naresh, a techie, says, “My father told me that his prepaid mobile balance keeps diminishing even though he did not use SMS or call frequently on his BSNL phone. We realised that he had subscribed to some odd friendship message service that was eating up all his balance. He wasn't aware of it and unsubscribing from it took a long time and there was hardly any refund.”
Airtel subscriber K. Vara Lakshmi had a similar experience: “I don’t know how a caller tune was activated and only after balance was cut did I realise that it was activated. I never got any refund for the ringtone which I did not activate.”
Telecom operators cannot add these VAS services without the customer's knowledge, and consent is imperative. They have found a way around the consent requirement by getting subscribers to agree to the VAS service without them knowing they are doing so. According to a BSNL customer service centre, “Customers, often senior citizens, visit the centre every day asking to deactivate VAS services. This is because the services come as a flash text, and unknowingly most of them accept it without paying keen attention.”
Telecom regulator is reportedly working on an app which will address complaints about VAS....