Singapore

Singtel acts against third-party content providers

Customers say they were charged for services they didn't sign up for

Singtel has asked several third-party mobile content providers to temporarily halt their activities after it received complaints from dozens of customers about SMS messages and alleged false charges from subscription mobile game services.

Some customers told The Straits Times that they received subscription confirmations for mobile services they did not sign up for.

Information technology consultant Alexander Lim, 36, said he ignored an SMS on Jan 27 that said he had subscribed to a service called Unlimited Gamez, as well as a renewal notice a week later, because he thought they were spam messages.

But when he received his phone bill, he was shocked to find a charge of $9.98 for two weeks of the service.

"I don't really play games, and I've never purchased anything from the app store - I definitely did not opt in to this," he said.

Singtel agreed to waive the charges and it activated the premium rate services (PRS) barring service, which blocks chargeable mobile content. But the subscription renewal texts continued, both from Unlimited Gamez and other game services.

Project manager Moshhoor Rahman showed The Straits Times more than 10 SMS messages that his wife had been receiving since Feb 1 from five different providers. They said that charges would be billed to her Singtel account.

Calls by The Straits Times to the hotlines - some of which were the same across different providers - went unanswered.

Singtel, which bills customers for PRS such as games and contests, said it has strict guidelines for third-party content providers and mandates a three-step registration process, instructions on how to unsubscribe and the provision of a hotline to call for assistance.

It acknowledged a "process gap in the updating of information to content providers", which resulted in some customers receiving SMS messages despite unsubscribing and activating PRS barring.

REVIEW

"We apologise for any inconvenience caused and will be reviewing our process urgently to ensure this does not happen again," said a Singtel spokesman. No additional charges will be billed once PRS barring has been activated.

The Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) said content providers have to comply with the PRS Code, which prohibits them from charging consumers for unsolicited services and requires them to give clear and complete information upfront and allow consumers to unsubscribe.

The IMDA said it will take enforcement action - ranging from warnings to financial penalties to licence cancellation - against violators.

Technology