By Deepmala Srivastava
Ever experience this. You have a prepaid number and you get flash messages on my mobile which talks about ring tones, Amitabh or any other subject. If you click anywhere, VAS services get subscribed and Vodafone starts charging you VAS services. If you call Customer Care will try to argue with you that you have clicked and hence they will not refund your money. Even convincing them to discontinue subscription is horrendous task. This is something which almost every prepaid subscriber have faced.
VAS Services is part of India’s biggest scam being operated by the Telecom Service Providers across the spectrum. I have myself been at receiving end of this when Vodafone charged me thrice for similar VAS Services. After posting on twitter, I got call from someone, who managed to stop sending such flash or whatever messages on my mobile number. Till date, Vodafone has not refunded the amount deducted from me.
All Telecom Operators including Airtel and Vodafone have been doing this as a part of carefully planned strategy to boost their revenues by defrauding customers. This entire scam is based on the logic that a typical Indian consumer does not keep checking his mobile phone balance and may miss the small deductions from his prepaid wallet. These small sums from millions of prepaid consumers become huge revenue for the Telecom operator. They assume that approx. 10-15% will complain, whose subscription they can cancel and still retain the amount already deducted. Department of Telecom continues to play the role of Dhritarashtra here. Telecom Regulatory Authority has issues guidelines time and again to Telecom Companies to refrain from defrauding customers and making forced sales of VAS to consumers based on manufactured consent.
Department of Telecom has started a service to check unauthorized VAS subscription actives on any number. All that a consumer check VAS Services active on the number is send an SMS by typing “STOP” to 155223. This is a toll free number. The user will get a reply from the same number informing about the list of VAS packs activated on their mobile. To deactivate these services, he just needs to reply accordingly. This service was started in 2013, but most people are not aware as this service have not been advertised much by DOT or anybody else. It seems that the idea is to offer this service but keep it obscure to allow the Telecom operators to continue their swindle. Department of Telecom seems to be working in synchronization with Telecom Operators like Airtel in this area.
Author is a practicing lawyer. She practices in Dwarka Court and has specialisation in Consumer Laws and Matrimonial Disputes.