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CCA: No Barriers to Telecommunication Service to Restrict Consumer from the Right of Choice
—— 2016-03-11 ——

Recently, CCA has received reports from some consumers claiming that some telecom carriers have set up barriers in providing services to consumers and that has infringed upon their legitimate rights and interests. For examples, subscribers can choose to upgrade their 2G or 3G package to 4G package but cannot change their 4G package back to 2G or 3G package. It’s also difficult to change their 3G package back to 2G package after upgrading the 2G network to 3G network. According to the report of a consumer, the 3G service contract will be expire on September 30, the consumer has to subscribe a new package in October for changing the 3G service back to 2G service, and the service starts in November. So, the 3G service package cannot be changed into other packages prior to the expiry of the contract. As the original 3G service contract will be automatically renewed by default, so the 3G service package will still be provided in October and be charged. For this issue, CCA puts forward its considerations as blow:

1. Article 9 of the new Consumer Protection Law stipulates that consumers have the right to choose commodities or services independently. When the original agreed service is expired, consumers are entitled to terminating the contract and choosing other appropriate telecommunication services again, or renewing the original contract upon mutual agreement. Telecom operators should offer different choices to consumers when signing standard terms with them for the convenience of consumers’ independent choice.

2. Speaking of fairness, telecom operators can absolutely terminate the service by default when the service contract is expired and adopt certain measures to prompt consumers for renewal or other acceptable means for consumers to renew the contract in advance. When a service business is expired, the consumer can make clear whether to accept the original service and telecom operators cannot presume on their own. Telecom operators have actually infringed upon consumers’ right of choice on their own and are suspected of forcing consumers to trade when they automatically renew the contract by default without the consent of consumers.

3. According to the provisions of the new Consumer Protection Law, consumers enjoy the right to freely choose the service provided by telecom operators who shall not restrict consumers to realize their right of choice by various means, such as time limit and package limit. After upgrading 2G service to 3G service, the type and time of package can be planned in advance for consumers to change the service back to 2G but not be planned after the expiry of the contract that make consumers pay one more month fees for 3G service. Or telecom operators could temporarily terminate the telecommunication service. 4G is a new-type telecommunication technology, so it requires certain time of subscribers to expand the service. Telecom operators should not hinder their subscribers to enter into or exit from some packages they need on the grounds of their own interests. Mobile phone service after upgrading to 4G can no longer be changed back to 2G or 3G services, which have infringed upon consumers’ right of free choice and fair trading.

4. At the time of developing and designing products or services, telecom operators should take an overall consideration of different situations and offer exit mechanisms to consumers but not set up barriers on their own. The products or services without exit mechanisms should be regarded as defective because they may harm consumers’ interests and shall not be put onto the market. CCA suggests competent authorities to enhance supervisions to constrain such behaviors from the origin and practically strengthen the protection of the consumers.

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