Several mobile phone users testified before the Senate Committee on Science and Technology Monday in connection with the involuntary diminution of prepaid mobile load, a process that earned the moniker “nakaw load”, calling for transparency from telecommunications companies.
For his part, Committee chairman Senator Bam Aquino told representatives of telcos present at the hearing to issue notifications to their subscribers when load is credited or deducted to their account.
Resource person and Globe prepaid subscriber Gigi Lapid maintained that subscribers must give consent before they are subscribed to any Value Added Service (VAS), which consumes load, in her case, without her prior knowledge.
“I kept receiving what looked like spam from unfamiliar four-digit numbers,” she said in her presentation. “Although I didn’t really keep track of my load consumption, I also felt that I was spending a lot more on prepaid cards than usual.”
This prompted her to call the Globe Customer Service Hotline on January 30, 2018, where she was told by a customer service representative (CSR) that she was indeed subscribed to some VAS, which, she said, “I actively did not subscribe to.”
“Those numbers have been sneakily charging you for services you never asked for,” she explained in a public Facebook post on the same day. “Only when you text STOP to the number (will you) be unsubscribed. This totally sounds like theft to me!”
She added that she requested the CSR that all such four-digit numbers be blocked, and that the CSR advised her “to never, ever click on pop-up ads, even the X-mark on those types of ads, since that would automatically subscribe you, apparently.”
Lapid presented screenshots of her text exchanges with the numbers 2988 (UDaily app), 2641 (AppsClub), 2101 (Globe Voice Blog or PhilBeat), and 2151 (Momoko) when she unsubscribed from their services.
At least two other Globe representatives reached out to her to reverse charges due to VAS and deactivate her VAS subsriptions.
A “Ken Globe” messaged her on Facebook on January 31 to say that VAS subscriptions can be caused by “mobile applications or downloading portals that automatically subscribe your number to different services whenever you access them.”
He continued, “Downloading game applications can also lead you into subscribing to a particular service, so be on the lookout when receiving any notifications wherein you are being instructed to subscribe to download the app.”
“Should you be getting VAS notifications from access numbers, please reply ‘CHECK’ to the access number to verify your subscription to it. You will then receive a reply on the correct keyword that you will be using to deactivate your subscription,” such as “STOP” or “UNSUBSCRIBE,” the Globe representative further explained.
Though Lapid acknowledged the Globe representative’s helpfulness, she complained about receiving two more messages from VAS after their initial exchange.
“As a Globe prepaid subscriber, I have the right to know exactly how my load is used up,” she said.
She then pointed to the recommendations of Facebook user Feanne Hontiveros Mauricio, who was prompted to create an online petition titled “Stop Globe’s load theft” after her prepaid load began running out faster than usual despite the fact that nothing changed with her usage.
“No third parties should be allowed to contact customers at all, unless the customer explicitly agreed to receiving advertisements from third parties,” Mauricio said. “We are paying Globe so we can text, call, and use the Internet. We are not paying Globe to receive unsolicited advertisements.”
Senator Aquino, meanwhile, said, “There was a clear solution presented during the hearing. Sa bawat load na pumasok at ibinawas sa atin, dapat may matatanggap na tayong libreng notification (For each amount of load that is credited to and deducted from us, we must receive a free notification).”
In a press release, he explained that the notifications could help subscribers monitor their load spending and will allow them to immediately cancel services they do not wish to avail.
He also urged telcos to conduct a complete audit of all their VAS to protect consumers against unwarranted deductions from their prepaid load.
“Mahalagang makasuhan ang VAS providers na nanloloko sa ating mga kababayan sa kanilang mapanlinlang na proseso sa pagpaparehistro (It’s important to file cases against VAS providers who are fooling our people through their deceptive ways of registration),” he said.
Globe General Counsel Atty. Froilan Castelo, who was present at the hearing, said that the telco had already suspended a certain VAS named “Got Deals”, and reimbursed its customers for the load they lost through it.
For his part, Smart Public Affairs Head Mon Isberto said, “The subscriber has to explicitly agree to sign up for the service. There’s a yes or no confirmation (through text).”