Telcos backtrack on 4G charges after IDA steps in

On April 17, we ran a story about StarHub’s move to charge its subscribers for 4G from June. The next day, as predicted, rival M1 also announced similar plans, while SingTel stated that it would do the same but did not announce a date when it would start doing so.

All three have now said they will not charge existing subscribers after the Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) stepped in to clarify the issue. A statement that appeared on IDA’s Facebook page on April 23 said:

“Today, 4G services do not support voice and SMS services; these services are delivered over the 3G network. IDA understands that M1, SingTel and StarHub have offered 4G services as part of their mobile data bundle promotion and have positioned them as value added services (‘VAS’) in their promotional materials and service terms and conditions.”

“However, IDA notes that there is significant consumer confusion over the service plans they signed up for. Under the Telecoms Competition Code, telecoms operators must communicate key terms and conditions to customers prior to service sign-up. Telecoms operators 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.””

The statement ended with: “IDA has clarified the matter with the three operators. All the operators have since decided not to change 4G service prices for existing customers with minimum term contracts.”

Subscribers may rejoice now, and rest assured that the operators cannot make similar changes mid-way through their present contract; but you can also be sure that the operators will take great care to be “clear to customers upfront” about the possibility of price changes in any of their new contracts going forward.

Ultimately, it is clear that Telcos will eventually charge for faster 4G services whether customers like it or not. For now, it should also be noted that customers with minimum term contracts fall into the category of customers which cannot be charged; there are subscribers who do not fall under this category, those with prepaid subscriptions, for instance.