Dubai: Telecom operators in the UAE will have to discontinue their “pay-per-use” data plans - unless the service is explicitly requested by consumers.
According to the latest statement from the regulator, the Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA), Etisalat and du have been instructed to discontinue such services with immediate effect. The TRA said it has done so “to protect subscribers from excessive charges of the service”.
Both Etisalat and du offer such on-demand services for data, allowing users to access mobile data and pay for it by the minute. Users can dial a certain number and opt in for the service, and then dial the same number to stop using the service.
While the data speed is limited to 1mbps, this one step process could sometimes lead to situations where customer forgets to stop the data session or mistakenly starts another data session.
Going by these rates [2 fils per minute], if the customer leaves their data on for 24 hours, it could cost them over Dh28 per day - this can quickly add up.
The service always requires customers to have credit balance and the amount is charged from the existing balance until it runs out.
- Dona Cherian
If users opt in but later forget to stop the service, they continue to be charged for it by operators.
The TRA did not provide further details on its instructions to Etisalat and du to discontinue this service or whether it has received any complaints from users. It said it will elaborate on the matter in a later statement, though.
Customers recount their experiences
Dubai: An Etisalat customer, who forget to turn off his mobile data, had to pay around Dh 1,000 in extra pay-as-you-go charges over his monthly bill.
The customer, who doesn’t want to be identified, said that within one day only, he was charged Dh1000 after he forgot to turn off the 3G. The customer’s smart number was updating and downloading some apps and unluckily, the data package was not enough.
Once the data ran out, the mobile phone has automatically activated the pay-as-you-go service, which used to charge Dh1.05 per megabyte, costing him around Dh1000 in less than one day. The customer had no option but to pay the total bill so that his number is not disconnected.
In another case, an Etisalat customer noticed that her monthly bill has increased by Dh100 without no obvious reason. Upon contacting Etisalat call center, she discovered that she was auto-subscribed to a service that she does not know about and is making no use of. She asked the call center agent when she subscribed to the service and how she did so.
The agent said this service is a third party service and is automatically activated after receiving a one-time password. The customer was sure she did not use the password and surprisingly she was informed that Etisalat system activate such service without any action from the customer. It needs only to get the one-tome password to be a service subscriber. Eventually, she came to know that she was auto-enrolled in the service while watching a YouTube video during which she mistakenly clicked on a link instead of skipping an ad. The link then redirected her to a page through which she auto subscribed to the service after receiving a one-time password.
The customer filed a complaint to Etisalat but she eventually had to pay the extra charges. She said that the auto-subscription system is confusing as it misleadingly enroll any one in a service that they don’t know about.
Accordingly, the telecom operators in the UAE were asked on Thursday to discontinue their “pay-per-use” data plans - unless the service is explicitly requested by consumers.
The Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (TRA), Etisalat and du have been instructed to discontinue such services with immediate effect. The TRA said it has done so “to protect subscribers from excessive charges of the service”.