Last month, the Council of Ministers approved stricter rules for calling and SMS services. Quite a few of the new rules actually already existed, but the minister hopes with this update finally to get rid of the many cases of abuse in the sector. The rules still have to be approved by the parliament.
According to Minister of Digital Agenda and Telecom Alexander De Croo, no fewer than 644 complaints were received by the Ombudsman for Telecom in connection with all kinds of mobile commerce and premium SMS services last year. In the past, most complaints were about ringtones suppliers who misleadingly subscribed a subscriber to unsuspecting users. Nowadays, these practices still exist, but they are often offered in all kinds of apps, and the payment is made in other ways than before, allowing malicious providers to escape the existing rules.
Improved regulations for SMS services
The new rules are actually not that new. They are very similar to the legislation introduced in 2009 and 2011, but the new version is more extensive and stricter. It also involved voluntary sector codes, whereas now it is no longer a matter of non-binding agreements but a binding legal text.
We summarize the new rules below. Some of them target not only the providers but also the telecom operators involved. The latter should also prevent players who are active from abroad or recruit customers for their services for a few weeks more quickly.
Advertising for paying services must state the cost price, including the highest rate.
The customer must send an SMS to the payment number himself for a service to start.
Unsubscribe starts by texting 'STOP' to the number.
The payment service must have customer service easily accessible by e-mail, telephone, or digitally.
The telecom operator can also receive the complaint.
Complaints must be dealt with within five working days; otherwise, the complaint will be well-founded.
If the complaint is well-founded, the SMS service must reimburse the costs within five working days or the next invoice. If this is not the case, the operators will assume the costs (for the time being).
Operators must immediately block the payment numbers and stop payment transfers if there is a violation.
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