Chinese telecoms watchdog the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) has published new regulations governing tariffs with a view to simplifying pricing structures and addressing customer concerns. The ‘Notice on further Regulating the Marketing Behaviour of Telecommunications Tariffs’ directs operators to provide tariff plans for their services that feature pricing structures – including charging items, additional fees and other terms and conditions – in a clear, simple and standardised format. These tariff plans should also be made more readily-available to existing and would-be customers, in digital or physical formats, with clear directions to the former through the company’s homepage. Advertising of these plans must be accurate and not misleading in any way. Operators should also strive to simplify their pricing structures and provide distinct plans for businesses, the guidelines add. The notification encourages providers to offer a tiered pricing scheme based on usage, but also directs companies to implement at least one pilot scheme by the end of the year that looks to address the consumption needs of a portion of their user base.
Further, the MIIT urged companies do continue to introduce more high-quality and low-cost tariff plans, in line with the government’s long-term drive to improve network performance and reduce fees. In particular, the regulator called on providers to improve accessibility by offering preferential tariff plans for users in remote rural areas, in low income groups or with disabilities. Similarly, preferential tariffs should be offered to SMEs to reduce the ‘cost of innovation and entrepreneurship of SMEs’. On a more general level, the MIIT made it clear that telcos must respect users’ rights to choose their service plan, with customers with the same trading conditions afforded identical rights to choose their tariff: operators cannot force or restrict customers in any way to select or switch to any of the tariffs available.