14 March 2011 - The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore has introduced new consumer protection measures for mobile and broadband services. IDA has required operators to put in place new systems to help consumers prevent unwanted mobile charges caused by Premium Rate Services (PRS) and data roaming, and to enhance transparency in the way operators publish Internet broadband speeds offered in their broadband plans.
Singapore, 14 March 2011 | For Immediate Release
The Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) of Singapore has introduced new consumer protection measures for mobile and broadband services. IDA has required operators to put in place new systems to help consumers prevent unwanted mobile charges caused by Premium Rate Services1 (PRS) and data roaming, and to enhance transparency in the way operators publish Internet broadband speeds offered in their broadband plans. The new measures for mobile PRS and data roaming complement existing regulations, including the PRS Code issued by IDA in 2007, and the existing Telecom Competition Code 2010 (991.20KB) which set out obligations for all telecom licensees, while the new requirement to enhance the transparency of broadband speeds follows a consultation conducted by IDA at end 2010.
Taking into consideration consumer feedback in the past year, IDA has directed mobile operators in Singapore to allow consumers to opt for a PRS barring service, which would enable them to stop sending/receiving chargeable PRS offered by third-party providers, and not be billed for them. To minimise "bill shocks", mobile operators will also be required to provide an option for consumers to limit their data roaming usage in a monthly billing cycle to $100. IDA has also launched a review of its Quality of Service (QoS) framework for mobile telephone services with a view to raise the standards for mobile QoS indicators such as service coverage, success rate and drop call rate.
To address consumers' feedback that the broadband speeds offered under their plans have not matched up to what were advertised by operators, IDA has decided that operators providing broadband services must publish the typical speeds that consumers can expect to experience. IDA will be consulting the operators on the proposed parameters for publication.
Premium Rate Service (PRS)
IDA has required operators to provide consumers with the option of a PRS barring service, which will be free when activated for the first time. Once the consumer activates the PRS barring service, he will not be able to send or receive any chargeable PRS. This means that he can neither subscribe nor receive any chargeable PRS, and more importantly, not be billed for them, even in the event of accidental subscription. Parents will no longer have to worry about children who may be attracted to contests received via SMS and sign up for PRS without fully understanding them. To facilitate the provision of such a barring service, IDA will set aside a prefix number which mobile operators may migrate PRS to. IDA expects mobile operators to put in place the PRS barring service by the first quarter of 2012, so that operators have sufficient lead-time to iron out the implementation details and service provisioning in the meantime.
With immediate effect, IDA will also impose more stringent penalties for contravention of the PRS Code, where errant PRS providers will face heavier financial penalties with repeat offenders having their licences suspended or cancelled. Where circumstances warrant, IDA will continue to exercise its right to suspend or cancel a PRS provider's licence at any time.
With more consumers buying smartphones and using them overseas, some consumers may inadvertently incur high data roaming charges. Consumers will soon be able to manage their data roaming usage with more peace of mind with the introduction of three new consumer protection measures for data roaming. From 1 July 2011, mobile operators will have to obtain explicit consent from their subscribers before providing any roaming services (including data roaming services), which may currently be available by default to mobile subscribers. Mobile operators are also required to explicitly direct consumer to the prices, terms and conditions of the roaming services to ensure that consumers can make an informed choice on whether or not to subscribe for such services.
Secondly, consumers will soon be able to limit their data roaming usage in any single monthly billing cycle to no more than $100. IDA has directed mobile operators to offer a free data roaming service suspension option that caps data roaming usage at $100. Operators are expected to implement such a service by the first quarter of 2012.
Lastly, should consumers not wish to utilise any data roaming service while overseas, apart from switching off the data roaming feature in their smartphones themselves, they will soon be also able to deactivate data roaming service prior to leaving Singapore. Consumers who return to Singapore can reinstate their data services and continue using their data service locally as per normal. The service is expected to be implemented the first quarter of 2012.
While IDA has established these new requirements, IDA has left it to the operators to work out the specific implementation methods and to supplement them with additional consumer protection measures commercially if they wish to do so. Operators would also need the lead time to iron out the implementation details and service provisioning to meet IDA's requirements.
Reviewing Qos For Mobile Telephone Services
To ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness in safeguarding a minimum acceptable level of mobile service quality for consumers, IDA has undertaken a review of its Quality of Service (QoS) for 3G mobile services and is seeking views from operators on its proposals to raise standards for various indicators, including service coverage at outdoor areas, in-building areas, and road and MRT tunnels. IDA will announce the revised mobile QoS framework once it is finalised.
Transparency Of Internet Broadband Speeds
Consumers looking to subscribe to Internet broadband plans will soon have clearer indications of the download speeds they can expect. Today, local Internet Access Service Providers (IASPs) generally advertise their fixed-line and mobile Internet broadband access plans using theoretical maximum download access speeds, using the term 'up to' to describe the download speeds. However, many consumers have provided feedback that actual speeds are often lower than these advertised theoretical speeds.
IDA has decided that IASPs providing broadband services should measure and publish the typical download speeds that consumers can expect to experience, which will enable consumers to make better-informed choices when selecting their broadband plan. Nonetheless, given the complexity in measuring broadband speeds, IDA will work with IASPs over the next few months to finalise the broad measurement parameters (e.g. type of broadband plans, devices and websites to be covered) and the publication requirements. IDA expects the operators to start publishing the typical download speeds by early 2012.
Mr Leong Keng Thai, Director-General (Telecoms & Post) of IDA said, "There is a large number of smartphone users in Singapore nowadays. Many children also have their own mobile phones. Unfortunately, not all consumers are tech-savvy. These new measures serve to protect them from charges incurred by accessing PRS and data roaming services unknowingly, and will give them more control over their use of such services. IDA expects that these measures will also help to reduce mobile 'bill shocks' and time-consuming disputes over charges, thus benefitting consumers, mobile operators and PRS providers in the long run. However, notwithstanding these measures, consumers still have a part to play in exercising due care and diligence to understand the prices, terms and conditions of any service before they subscribe to it."
Mr Leong added, "Information transparency is also an important prong of our regulations in safeguarding consumer interests. With clearer information on the Internet broadband access speeds, consumers can make informed choices when choosing their broadband plans."
In summary, Mr Leong said, "As a whole, these new measures do not limit the operators' flexibility to offer competitive and innovative services. On the contrary, these measures will help operators provide better services to their customers by helping their customers better understand the broadband plans offered in the market and manage their mobile phone bills. This in turn will help improve consumer satisfaction with the services provided by the operators."
For more information, please refer to Annex A (153.90KB).
ISSUED BY CORPORATE & MARKETING COMMUNICATION DIVISION
INFOCOMM DEVELOPMENT AUTHORITY OF SINGAPORE
Notes to Editor:
1 A value-added service provided over a public telecommunications network which consists of the provision of content such as information, news updates, quizzes, jokes, greeting messages, ringtones, wallpapers, logos and games for which charges are imposed over and above the standard network charges of the relevant network operator. The PRS in this media release refers to PRS provided via SMS on mobile phones.
About Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore
The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) is committed to growing Singapore into a dynamic global infocomm hub. IDA uses an integrated approach to developing infocommunications in Singapore. This involves nurturing a competitive telecoms market as well as a conducive business environment with programmes and schemes for both local and international companies. For more news and information, vist www.ida.gov.sg.
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