The Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA) has published a revised set of guidelines under its Telecom Competition Code, effective 21 January 2011. Under the new rules domestic operators will be required to obtain a customer’s consent before charging them for services at the end of a trial period. As it stands telcos can automatically charge consumers once a free trial ends: as such, all terms and conditions related to this clause tend to be buried in the fine print of the contract. Although the IDA is intent on stopping this practice, it says the new regime is not intended to stop or limit the use of free trials, but rather a reaction to an ‘increasing number of complaints received by IDA from consumers’.
Further changes to the Code will bar telcos from cross-terminating a customer’s contract. In other words, if a user holds a cable TV and mobile contract with an operator, and disputes the charges levied for one service, the telco will not be able to threaten the termination of both services. This new rule will cover all contracts, except for those sold under a single bundle or offered under the same service agreement. The watchdog has also reiterated that consumer rights to enjoy a basic telephone service will also be protected under the Code unless there is a breach of the agreement of the telephone service itself. Main players SingTel and StarHub are understood to be studying the changes.