Premium-rate SMS complaints still high

Premium-rate SMS complaints still high

SINGAPORE - Many consumers are still complaining about receiving unwanted billing from mobile content providers, due mainly to the lack of awareness of a free service to bar unsolicited premium-rate text messages.

Telecommunications regulator Infocomm Development Authority (IDA) said it has received 228 complaints in the first 10 months of this year against such companies that offer quizzes, ringtones and games through local telcos.

While it appears to be a drop from an all-time high of 379 complaints last year, the number is still much higher than the 156 complaints that IDA received in 2010.

These companies typically charge anything from $1 to $5 per ringtone, game download or SMS sent to a user.

Since February last year, consumers have been able to block premium-rate text messages - which typically contain links to download games or ringtones, for example - provided they sign up for the free opt-in barring service.

This means they would not be billed even if they had accidentally subscribed to a premium-rate service.

The service managed by the three local telcos is made possible by assigning codes to these messages, which signal to users just what they are and make it easier for the telcos to bar them.

To sign up, users simply send a text message to the telcos or call their hotline numbers.

SingTel and StarHub declined to reveal the sign-up rates. M1 said more than 60,000 customers - or 6 per cent of its one million-plus post-paid subscribers - have registered.

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