Parliament Sitting on 3 July 2017
QUESTION FOR WRITTEN ANSWER
*54. Mr Yee Chia Hsing:
To ask the Minister for Communications and Information whether the Ministry monitors the incidence of complaints from mobile phone users against Premium Rate Services (PRS) providers and whether action is taken to bar or blacklist errant PRS providers.
Madam Speaker, Premium Rate Services or PRS for short, are value-added mobile content services subscribed via SMS. In 2007, the Info-communications Media Development Authority (IMDA) introduced a PRS Code of Practice. The PRS Code requires providers to publish the terms and conditions of their service, authenticate the user, and ensure that explicit purchase confirmation is received prior to service activation. These safeguards help consumers avoid accidental subscriptions.
2 Since the Code was introduced, IMDA has taken enforcement actions in 28 cases. The actions ranged from issuing warnings to imposing financial penalties, with the highest being $100,000. Repeat offenders could also have their licences suspended or cancelled.
3 Apart from the PRS Code, IMDA has required mobile operators to offer a PRS barring service since 2012. Consumers who activate this service will not receive PRS or be billed even if they have accidentally subscribed to the PRS.
4 As such, the number of PRS-related complaints received by IMDA has fallen significantly by 74% over the last five years, from 483 complaints in 2012 to 126 complaints in 2016.
5 Most of the remaining complaints relate to allegations of being charged for unsolicited PRS. IMDA’s investigations generally revealed that consumers did not read the terms and conditions of the PRS carefully before subscribing to the PRS.
6 I urge consumers to pay closer attention to the terms and conditions of a PRS before subscribing to any PRS and to look out for SMS reminder messages highlighting charges payable. Consumers can also activate the PRS barring service for themselves and family members.