Copied a hello tune by mistake? Here's what you should know before you press *

Bhargav's problem during the last few days is this — One evening, when he dialled his friend's number from his mobile phone, the instructions were that if he wanted the hello tune to be activated, he should press * and 9 on the key pad. However, unknowingly, even as he pressed the * button, the tune got activated and the amount was deducted from his balance.

Bhargav contacted the customer care unit of the service provider at once and was assured that the issue would be resolved within three days and a reference number was also given.

Five days later, Bhargav was in for a surprise when the customer care executives told him that pressing * itself would activate the hello tune and that they were not aware that one had to dab 9 as well.

Bhargav approached us, and on our advice, escalated the complaint to the nodal officer. We were shocked by the reply from the nodal office confirming that the hello tune is activated on dialling the * option alone, and that the amount would not be reversed. We have taken up the issue with the service provider and are yet to receive a response.

Chiefly, to address this issue of unintentional / accidental activation of value-added services on pressing only a certain key in the mobile handset and to improve the quality of service, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), in its amended direction dated September 4, 2009, has laid down a few procedures to be followed by service providers.

In case of service provider-initiated calls, it provides for a pre-recorded call to be made by the service provider, informing the customer about the value-added service and the charges involved.

The next step is a process of confirmation by which, other than * and 9, other relevant keys are to be dialled to select the choice of song. This will express the consumer's interest to subscribe to a service. Then, the charges for the selected value- added service are to be announced again and the customer advised to reconfirm his choice by pressing * and 9.

The subscription to the service is to be ascertained once again through announcement and SMS, where, the required charges and the validity period are to be indicated.

Protecting consumers

With regard to the prime issue of ‘press star to copy hello tune', by which most consumers were affected, a pre-call announcement about the service and charges are to be made by the service providers, and the customers advised to press * and 9.

This is to be reconfirmed by SMS, wherein, all pertinent details must be provided.

This double-confirmation process provided in the direction protects customers against accidental activation of such value-added services. In both instances, the direction also allows a subscriber to un-subscribe from any value-added service within 24 hours of activation. The service provider is obligated to reimburse the charges.

It is also mandated that service providers inform the subscriber, at least three days before the due date of renewal of a value-added service, about the renewal date, the charges and the toll-free number for un-subscribing, if the consumer decides so.

When TRAI has laid down such clear procedures, it is disheartening that service providers fail to follow these consumer-friendly measures.

It is vital to educate executives who deal with customers about the relevant provisions to ensure improved services.

In the present scenario, where consumers are not in a position to approach the Consumer Fora for telecom disputes due to the Supreme Court ruling, there is no real platform where consumers can voice their grievances.

Therefore, it is vital that TRAI sets up a redressal machinery to make life easier for subscribers.

(The writer works with CAG, which offers free advice on consumer complaints to its members. For membership details/queries contact 24914358/24460387 or helpdesk@cag.org.in)

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