How Value Added Services Are Still Pushed Down Customers Throat
Oh! We all have gone through these “accidentally on purpose” VAS, at some point of time. Haven’t we! From 2008 to 2013 activating VAS without customer consent was one of the major customer complaints in Telecom Sector. The highest number of VAS activation without the costumer consent was during the same period. This was the story of almost every Indian mobile operator, not one to be specific. Perhaps like every fairy tale, we were also rescued from this with repetitive intervention of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI)
All these years VAS easily outreached it’s previous years revenue collections, little did we all know that a billion dollar VAS SCAM thrived and survived for more than a decade and was outgrowing itself in revenues by each passing year. The winner of the longest surviving scam in India undoubtedly goes the VAS (claps!). TRAI is some kind of superhero for us, Indians, as this was put to an end by TRAI after issuing the guidelines for activation and de-activation of Value added Services. Are Third Party Value Added Service Providers still Activating VAS without Customer Consent?
Will you be surprised if I say that the SCAM of Activating VAS without Customer Consent still exists and successfully thriving under the nose of TRAI?
With Urban Telecom Customers getting more informed, the focus to mint money by activating VAS without Customer consent has shifted its focus from Urban to Rural Telecom Customers. The Rural Telecom Customers are not well informed about the various options available to them hence most of their voice goes unheard. On the other hand seeing this as a lucrative opportunity area the Third Party VAS Providers are making rural customer an easy target to generate millions of revenue which goes unnoticed. Ideally all put together it could give a tough competition to all major billion dolor scams in India.
Why Rural Customers are Easy Target for Activating VAS without Customers Consent by these Third Party VAS Providers:
- Rural Customers are illiterate or less educated and hence are not well informed to bring this to the notice various forums available
- Rural customers use their phone for basic telephony i.e. to make and receive calls, sms penetration is still negligible and all balance deduction information is passed via sms which goes unnoticed
- Rural customers does not post their complaints online for re re-addressal hence if you try to search such complaints online the chances are high that you won’t even find one of recent cases
- Most of the rural customers does not know how to call up customer care, even if they manage to call up customer care to complain they get stuck in multi layered IVR options
- Most rural customers are hesitant to talk to customer services or haven’t experienced it till now. For rural customers their helpline is less informed retailers/dealers who also does not have such basic information
- Rural customers don’t know how to read sms, specially if the balance deduction messages are not in regional language
- If mobile handset if switched off for more than 24 hours the sms containing balance deduction information will never reach these rural customers
How does the entire Chain of Activating VAS without Customer Consent Works?
- Representative of Telecom Service Provider identifies the non active rural user base with some balance on it
- Once the non active rural customer base is identified basis their last location it is then mapped with balance in customer account
- All such customers with 0 or negative balance are removed from the customer base and finally that base with balance is shared with Third Party VAS Services Provider
- The Third Party Service Provider then initiates Bulk VAS activation on these numbers without customer consent
- The Third Party then creates false logs in their system so that it does not comes out in audits and looks like the activation has been initiated by the non active customer
- As soon as the customers number is subscribed to the VAS, the subscription fees is automatically deducted from the balance of non active rural customer even without any information to the customer
- At the end of the monthly cycle the earned revenue from the total subscription is shared among the VAS Partner and Telecom Service Provider
What TRAI must do to put a permanent FULL STOP on these fraudulent VAS Activation?
- Get hold of customer base where they are not using the VAS services at all and being charged month on month for subsequent VAS subscriptions
- Customers who are not actively using basic telephony services however being charged month on month for VAS subscription can be easily tracked
- In some cases more than one VAS subscription is active on such inactive customers with balance on his mobile.
- Track down on such companies where Month on Month VAS Revenues are growing or sustained with low or nil usage of these value added services
You may ask me that “The balance in the non active rural customer number can be forfeited by the Telecom Service Provider at the end of grace period, so why will the telecom company charge it as a VAS service from these customers?”
To answer that – When balance is forfeited from the balance of customer after the stipulated grace period the revenue only goes to the Telecom Service Provider and not shared with the Third Party VAS Providers however when activation without customer consent happens the revenue gets split into Telecom Company and Third Party VAS provider which later get shared between the third party VAS providers and the Representative of Telecom Service Providers illegally. This is how the chain works till date.
Here is how you can directly complaint to TRAI : tccms.gov.in
Focus of these Third Party VAS Providers are now shifting to other developing and under developed countries, BE AWARE!!!
Do you know of any such instance where balance got deducted automatically from your mobile number?