Brazil braces itself for new mobile rules

12 Feb 2008

Brazil’s telecoms watchdog Anatel is preparing to implement updated regulations for the mobile industry from Wednesday 13 February, providing new rules for service requirements and outlining clearer rights and obligations of operators and consumers alike. Under the new system pre-paid users will need to provide proof of identity and proof of address in order to register their SIM. Another important change will bar operators from tying users in to contracts requiring them to commit to a minimum number of months of service. However, the cellcos will have a certain amount of leeway if they are offering ‘special benefits’ with the package, such as a subsidised handset.

Other key changes will require operators to refund double the amount plus interest in the case of overcharged fees. Also, customers on a monthly contract now gain the right to keep their number if they switch service plan with their existing supplier. Even if they decide to change their number, the operator will now be forced to attach a notification message for 60 days, informing the customer’s contacts of the change of number. Operators must also provide comparison charts of their post-paid plans when solicited by a user, Anatel said. From 2009, all customer service centres must clearly publish users’ rights and operators will have to install a customer service station in every region of 200,000 inhabitants by 2010. The area will be reduced to 100,000 inhabitants in 2012.

If a user fails to pay his or her bill, mobile network operators will only be able to start limiting their service after 30 days, allowing only emergency calls or calls to toll-free lines for another 15 days, before being given sanction to stop their service altogether. Cellcos will also be required to provide users with free emergency calls, even for pay-as-you-go users who may have exhausted their credit. Finally, the operators must terminate contracts within 24 hours of a valid request from an end user – either via phone, SMS or e-mail.