Telephone service providers will have to seek a subscriber's "explicit consent" before activating value-added services like caller tunes, background music or wallpapers. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has directed mobile telecom operators to comply with the order within 45 days.
The TRAI order follows a large number of complaints about phone service providers enabling services without the subscribers' consent. The regulator, in a survey, found that 24 per cent of subscribers said value-added services were provided without their consent.
The TRAI order says a service provider must convey to the customer - in writing, through a text message, fax or email - details, terms and conditions of the value-added feature it intends to offer, even if the service is free. The service provider must then "seek and obtain the explicit consent of the customer before activation".
The authority has pointed out that the procedure of activating a service with by pressing the star (*) button on a handset is not good enough, as it can lead to accidental activation of such services.
''Examination of the complaints revealed that there is a likelihood of consumers subscribing to such services accidentally or unintentionally by pressing the (star) key and the process for obtaining consent through this facility is not in line with the direction of the authority,'' TRAI said in a statement.
TRAI has directed telecom companies to make a special provision within three months for consumers to lodge complaints, and said that operator must convey the existence of this service to the consumer. TRAI has further mandated that any requests for consent made to the customer by the operator should be shown in the next bill.
Operators are also required to provide a facility to subscribers within one month for registering their requests for unsubscribing any value-added service they have been offered without their consent. Operators are also directed to keep complete records of such consent obtained from the customer.
The service provider shall inform the consumers concerned and the authority regarding resolution or redressing of the complaint within one month from the date of referring of the complaints, TRAI added.