ictQATAR continues its series of consumer tips, on key telecom issues.
Mobile Premium Rate Services
The ability to download ring tones, games and music, enter competitions and check the latest sports scores can be a fun part of owning a mobile phone.
These mobile extras, offered from numbers starting with '900', are often called 'premium rate services'. They generally cost more than a standard SMS or mobile phone call (sending and receiving a message). Mobile extras are usually listed separately on your phone bill as 'information services' or 'premium services'.
Complaints about Premium Rate Services
ictQATAR has received complaints from consumers about premium rate services. Problems we hear include:
• 'Free' ring tones are not free
• Phone users find out that by accepting a 'free' ring tone offer, they have committed to a costly subscription service (which, for example, requires them to pay for a new ring tone each week)
• A song such as 'Happy Birthday' is sent more than once over a period of time, with consumers charged each time the song is sent and received
• People are not aware of terms and conditions of the premium rate service
• Phone users experience difficulties unsubscribing from a service or are unaware of the procedure to unsubscribe from such a service
• Consumers are unable to contact the trader who sells service
• ring tones advertised as 'real' or 'true' that are not recorded by the genuine artist
• Children access these services without understanding what is involved
• People are charged for services not received or that do not seem to work.
Often, consumers do not realise there is a problem until their phone bill arrives with some unexpectedly high charges, or their pre-paid credit disappears at a very fast rate.
Ways to Avoid Problems with Premium Rate Services
Ask the following questions before you download a ring tone or by a premium rate service:
1. What am I getting?
• Is the service really a single download with a 'one-off' charge, or am I signing up to an ongoing subscription?
For instance, an advertised 'free' ring tone may mean that you don't get charged for the first one, but once you sign up, you'll be charged for a new ring tone every week thereafter.
• Does the subscription keep going until I cancel it, or does it run for a set time (such as a week or a month)?
2. What is the total cost of the service?
• How much will each SMS sent to or from my phone cost? (some services charge for each way)
• Is there a separate joining fee?
3. Can I contact the provider?
• If you have a problem, this information will be very important.
• Check if providers include telephone and email contact details in their advertising.
• If not based in Qatar, the provider may be harder (and more expensive) to contact.
4. Does this service work on my phone?
• Though some premium rate services do not work with all handsets, you may still be charged.
5. What if I am using a prepaid phone?
• With some prepaid phones you can still be charged for ongoing premium rate services even after your credit runs out.
• Without a bill, you might only find out about ongoing charges when your recharged credit disappears quickly.
• Check with your mobile service provider about whether this affects you.
Honest and reputable traders will make sure the above information is clearly available and easy to understand. If it is not, don't sign up for the service.
Cancelling a service
• You can cancel any service by sending an SMS to the premium service provider or by calling the premium service provider and requesting cancellation of the premium rate service.
• You cannot be charged for any messages sent after you cancel the premium rate service.
• The SMS or call to cancel the service should cost no more than an ordinary text message or call.
Problems and complaints
If you have a problem with a mobile premium rate service you should talk to your phone company first. Qtel and Vodafone are required to make genuine efforts to resolve customer complaints.
• QTel's Customer Service can be contacted by dialling 111.
• Vodafone's Customer Service is at 8007111
If QTel or Vodafone do not resolve your issue within 30 calendar days, you can contact ictQATAR by:
• Calling the Consumer Voice Hotline: +974 4995353
• Emailing us at [email protected]
• Send a Fax to: +974 4995515
If the provider of the premium rate service is a separate service provider - not QTel or Vodafone - there may be a local distributer of that service that you can contact.
Information you will need when making a complaint to ictQATAR:
• The name of the provider of the service, the phone number and any website associated with the service
• Copies of phone bills showing the charges.
-If you have a pre-paid account, check with your phone company as they may be able to provide you with a list of calls.
• Copies of any relevant message or messages.
- Do not delete such messages until you have reported the problem to your phone company or to ictQATAR.
- The messages may be neededto investigate your complaint
• Details of how and where the service was advertised.
• Dates and times when you used the service.
Obligations on Licenced Service Providers
Both QTel and Vodafone are legally obligated to provide consumers with clear, transparent information about their services, including in advertising language. Providers are not allowed to mislead or deceive you about what you buy or can buy. They are also required to receive complaints and resolve them within 30 days.
Be aware of Spam and Scams
• If you receive an SMS you did not request advertising a business or service, or inviting you subscribe to a service, the SMS may be spam.
• Don't delete the text messagse.
• You can report spam to your service provider or to ictQATAR.
• In extreme cases, some ring tone offers can be a type of scam.
For more useful consumer tips, please visit ictQATAR's website: http://www.ictqatar.qa/output/page32.asp
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