SINGAPORE: The three telcos - StarHub, M1 and SingTel - have decided not to charge for 4G services for existing customers with minimum term contracts.
This is after industry regulator Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore conducted an investigation into StarHub's recent announcement that it will start charging for 4G value-added services from 1 June.
IDA said in a statement on Wednesday that telcos should not change prices mid-way that affect customers with minimum term contracts if they were not clear to customers upfront what those price changes might be.
Under the Telecoms Competition Code, telcos must communicate key terms and conditions to customers prior to service sign-up.
StarHub had earlier said that it will charge customers on its SmartSurf plans $2.14 a month for the use of 4G services, after a promotion ends on 31 May.
According to IDA, currently 4G services do not support voice and SMS services, which are delivered over the 3G network.
The three telcos have offered 4G services as part of their mobile data bundle promotion and positioned them as value-added services in their promotional materials and service terms and conditions.
Speaking on Channel NewsAsia's Talking Point programme on Wednesday, IDA's Deputy Chief Executive Leong Keng Thai said the regulator has clarified the matter with the telcos and they have decided not to charge for 4G services for existing customers with term contracts until they expire.
He said: "Based on some of the feedback from consumers, we've actually reviewed certain contracts, including various promotional materials of all the three telcos.
"We found that generally and to various degrees, the terms and all the necessary notifications are captured in writing in one form or another.
"But I think, more importantly, the point is that whether this has been clearly communicated to consumers at the point of sale.
"I think at the point of sale, it is very critical, and our finding is there is certainly room for improvement in this area.
"We will be working on improving and tightening those procedures at the point of sale to ensure consumers are fully aware and we will make it a regulatory requirement."
In response, StarHub said in a statement that it values the feedback of its customers and that it has decided to further the free promotion to existing customers of its SmartSurf Lite/Value/Premium/Elite price plans till the end of their contract.
Meanwhile, a SingTel spokesman said: "Even before IDA's latest announcement was made, SingTel's policy with regard to changes to price plans or promotions is that these changes would only apply if customers choose to renew their contract or sign up a new contract.
"We will always provide customers with ample advance notice if we introduce changes or end promotions, so that they have sufficient time to make an informed decision."
In response to MediaCorp queries, an M1 spokesman said that charges for its 4G value-added services (VAS) are clearly highlighted in its original 4G media release in 2012, on its website and in its marketing collaterals.
The spokesman said: "Our staff also explain relevant VAS charges to our customers, which they then sign off on, before their transaction is processed. The 4G VAS charges will only apply to new or re-contracting customers."
M1 also said that, in order to give customers greater choice and flexibility, 4G was offered as a VAS with the launch of its 4G network in September 2012.
"This allows customers to activate and pay for the faster speed of 4G when they need it, similar to roaming services," the spokesman said. - CNA/ir
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