StarHub to extend promotion of 4G VAS, what really happened?

StarHub is extending their 4G VAS promotion till the end of the customers’ contract instead of till June 2014. Why did they change their initial decision? I am sure when they decided to charge customers the 4G VAS, it is not decided over a cup of coffee. Surely, they have anticipated some “noise” and resentment from the customers or even the general public, agree?

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StarHub changes the decision

Here is the official media statement from StarHub

“We value our customers’ feedback and we understand their concerns about the new promotional rate for “4G Speed Boost”. After careful consideration, we decided to further extend the free promotion to existing customers of our SmartSurf Lite/Value/Premium/Elite price plans till the end of their contract.

In regard to this promotion, we have been upfront with customers. Details of this service, including pricing and promotion expiry have been made available in our sales and marketing materials as well as on our website since its introduction in September 2012.” – Mr Chan Kin Hung, StarHub’s Senior Vice President of Mobility

In my opinion, I think they should remove or rephrase the last sentence. It is like “I am sorry but you should know I am not wrong anyway” or “I am sorry but you should have read the Terms and Conditions which have stated clearly the promo in the first place”.

What really happened?

So what really happened? First, in my opinion, it has got to do with feedback from customers and public. Probing further, you will realized that IDA has intervened.

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Here is the partial statement that IDA posted on Facebook:

… 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.

IDA agrees that the mobile operators could have been done more at points-of-sale and customer interface channels to communicate their 4G VAS position to subscribers. 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.

So, StarHub changed their stance because IDA intervened and also because of the public outcry. In my opinion, IDA has done a good job this time to investigate. As a consumer, it is good to know that IDA and Telcos are listening to our feedback and concerns.

What could have been done better?

StarHub is like the guinea pig. It is the first to implement and also the first to get the backlash from customers and public. It is a good lesson for the rest.

I think there is nothing wrong (in terms of technicality) for them or any Telco to charge customers since they already stated clearly in the contract. What is wrong, in my opinion, is the current 4G service.

  • Do you know that your device will switch to 3G when you receive an incoming call? 4G is not capable of voice data yet.
  • Do you know that many areas that are not covered by 4G.
  • What is the optimum speed when you are on 4G?
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You see, if they had addressed these issues and 4G is truly a great value-add, I think making consumers pay for it will be a lot easier. Before I end this post, here is a question to ponder..

If 4G is 100% implemented in Singapore with voice integration and everything to make 3G looks obsolete, will it still be called a VAS?

Of course, 3G will not be obsolete soon since there are many handsets that is only 3G capable. What I wanted to know is how long will the Telcos continue to call 4G a VAS rather than a mobile plan.

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