Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Why I switched to a pre-paid phone card....

About 3 months ago, I called it a day when my contract for the handphone ended. I was dead tired of the endless harassment by telemarketers, crooks and unsolicited SMSes that were out to cheat me. I was billed several times for services I did not consume and that was included in my bill. I have to find time to check my phone bill line by line to make sure there was no mis-billing.

Recently, the telcos have done what amounts to cheating. The send an SMS for a service and if you don't reply to cancel it, it means you have agreed to subscribe to it. They will proceed to bill you. If you're too busy, you won't even notice these billings.

Here are some stories....
Watchout for deceptive Singtel charges and practices.
Singtel includes a 3 month Free MP3 Download service in the fine print of new mobile plans
At the end of 3 months you must OPT-OUT to avoid a $5/mth change
It appears to be impossible to opt-out of this service

Last week I discovered a charge of $16.05 for something called "MP3 Music Pack" on my Singtel mobile account. I called Singtel to get it removed as it was not something had requested or used. After much discussion the operator told me the charge was for 3 months use of the service, after the initial 3 month FREE trial period expired. Six months ago I signed up for Singtel's Mobile Broadband plan, not changing my basic phone plan, but seems that Singtel included this free value added service. She told me I should have responded to an SMS message that was sent to me if I DID NOT want to continue with this "service" at a costs $5.35/mth.She cancelled the $16.05 change and I told her to cancel this value added service. I thought that was the end of it. An hour ago I got this text message:"MP3 Music Pack FREE offer will end in 3 days & a charge of $5.35/mth applies if you wish to continue. You may unsubscribe from MP3 Music Pack site."I have just wasted 45 mins trying to find any reference to this website - there is nothing on the SingTel site as this seems to be a 3rd party service. I managed to log on to my IDEAS account and discovered this:Date & Time Transaction Description Content Provider Qty Price Transaction Fee 01/11/2007 12:00:46 AM MP3 Music Pack Oracle Vision 1 $5.00 $0.00 Even googling Oracle Vision and MP3 Music Pack does not provide any way to opt-out. Only other people complaining about the same problem.Unfortunately I am travelling for a few weeks and cannot easily call Singtel but will give them hell when I get back.In the meantime check your bills.This is clearly a scam and Singtel is enabling it by including it in most new mobile plans, and then making opting-out virtually impossible (at least for me). According to Singtel's website you get this "MP3 Music Pack" service and the additional $5.35/mth charge if you have signed up for Singtel's iOne+, iTwo Value, iTwo+ plans - it's most popular ones. It is highly likely Singtel have signed-up many hundreds of thousands of people to new plans this year. At $5 per month that is getting to be pretty serious money.If you can figure out how to opt-out of this "service" please let me know.

I feel like I have just been cheated by Singapore's biggest phone services provider, Singtel.I think I have to alert people out there because number-porting is now available, and more people might be unknowingly penalised like me.Here's the story:My Singtel 2-year contract ended on 29 Oct 2008.I want to change provider to Starhub while retaining my old hp number which I use on the Singtel SIM card.Hence, I sign a plan with Starhub on 22 Oct 2008 and ported over my old number to Starhub SIM card on 31 Oct.Obviously no premature termination of contract.And I did not expect Singtel to bill me on permature termination while jumping ship to Starhub.What I am angry and sad and disappointed about Singtel:Last and latest bill from Singtel charged me on "Equipment Plan Termination" - $250.

There is no explanation, I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT EQUIPMENT PLAN TERMINATION MEANS. Which means, as a consumer with rights, I don't know what I am being billed for!I checked and found out that it means I bought my Handphone at a discounted or so called contract rate with them. e.g. less $200 off the phone if you sign ABC plan with us.Which I find totally absurd. I do not owe Singtel anything according to my knowledge.Throughout the 2 years with them I was a really patriotic customer who told everybody Singtel is the best, with the best coverage and clarity etc, and jio-ed the "whole world" to change Singtel.Facts:I did not buy a hp at point in time when I signed contract which ended on Oct 29 2008. Yes, I was told I would be charged for prematured termination. Yes, I agreed and signed on the dot.In the mean time, I bought a K800 at $500+ definitely empty phone no-contract price from Singtel dealer at Jurong Point. I lost it after 2 months, from Mar to May 2007.Hence, I bought another empty phone (I THOUGHT) from Singtelshop Weat Mall, N95 at $1188. HOW CAN THIS PRICE BE CONSIDERED CONTRACT PHONE!!!THE BEST THING: Singtelshop did not TELL ME nor ASK ME TO SIGN ANYTHING, that this is a contract phone, and that if I bought ANY phone from official big big SINGTELSHOP, it's ALL contract phone regardless of price of whether you sign plan. Hence it means that I have just agreed to ANOTHER 2-year plan to STAY with Singtel OVER my existing line plan. Which means without my knowledge, I am on a DOUBLE contract ending on different dates.They say there are fine prints under the T&C when you buy a phone. Thing is, we are not alerted to it AS USUAL. And I did not SIGN anything. If I were made to sign, I AM THAT KIND WHO READS EVERY FINE PRINT! Then I would know, and would not anyhow terminate my contract.They don't ask you to sign, and they expect you to know. AND I was under 21 years old. It means, under the law which is SUPPOSED to protect not-so-liable citizens who are supposed to be gullible and cannot sign anything (I can't even apply for my own roaming services), they should ask for a guarantor besides me when I buy the phone, to double check.ALL THESE, they did not do.I feel like the DBS cheat old people with money case now!They did not lie. They just DID NOT TELL YOU THE WHOLE TRUTH.EVEN MORE ANGRY BECAUSE:Singtel only sent me a small and unobvious SMS to offer me to stay with them (since we can now retain numbers regardless of providers).They did not make a single meaningful effective effort to ALERT customer that their plan is ending, and to retain their customer.Maybe they are just planning to cheat people into penalties like premature termination and all. They think they are the biggest, so give us this DISGUSTING attitude that they don't need us. And we want to leave, leave.Wheareas, Starhub has been treating its customer with sincerity and care (I have cable and maxonline) and show us they THEY KNOW WE EXIST.HOW DOES SINGTEL EXPECT A CUSTOMER LIKE THIS TO NOT JUMP SHIP???I wonder.I complained to them about this, and they automatically waived my caller-ID charges at $5 a month for 5 months. ABSOLUTELY STUPID and useless as I have already told them clearly in the complaint that I have switched lines. CAN'T THEY USE THEIR COMMON SENSE!!!Please be alert, those of you who want to retain you number while changing providers, especially if you bought a phone from Singtelshop not on the point in time that you signed plan. And let your friends know, ask them to check as well.*I know most people buy phone when they sign plan, and I might be minority victim.Now, I will have to pay the charges. But this is going to CASE. I hope they will put up measures to protect consumers... sigh.
wah so jialat....i similar situation as u but mine is e broadband...i sign 2 yrs contract with them in 2005, which means after 2007 i'm free to choose to either cont / stop rite??den i moved out of my hse early 2008... my bills were not paid from march to july.... $35 x 5 = $175... in e end they terminated e line in aug and charge me a total of $500+!!!i called e hotline and they told me early termination fee = $88++, admin fee = $53++ and miscellanous fee.... WTF? can from $175 jump to $500.... anyway by e time i read e lawyer letter ( thank god i went hm tt day! ) i left 2 days to pay up or pay more money to e lawyer... i LPPL pay up first lor.... happened 3 days back... dun understand y got termination fee also since i'm not under any contract...


pumpkin said...

Shocking behavior of a govt linked company. I would expect it to show exemplary business ethic expected of a govt linked co.

Anonymous said...

Actually, the market for mobile phone subscription is already over saturated. So of course those "business minded" phone company people must think of new ways to rake in money, and to even stoop to new lows in doing so. To put it bluntly this is thievery, stealing money in a high tech way and hoping you will not notice or bother or feel hopeless about it. That's how a thief operates.
If not how to pay those top executives million dollar salaries, overheads and expenses and answer to shareholders?
And of course the law allows them to even get away with it!!

路人甲 said...

Thats the problem with monopoly by GLC.

I have a business broadband account which expire after 2 years, but due to my unit leasing issue and the negotiation of the contract is still dragging (6 months of emails and still unable to speak to the person-in-charge and this landlord so happen to be another GLC), I am unable to sign any broadband contract with stinknet.

I wrote in to them about my situation that my lease with my landlord is temporary now and i cant commit to a contract with stinknet until i sign a permanent lease with my landlord.

I ask them to continue charging me for $99 per month for 1.5mbps BB plan just for the next 3 months.
as My company have been using their service since 6 years ago

They reject and say unless I sign up a 2 year contract with them or else I will have to pay for a no-discount rate which is $890.

The contract rate is $99 and a no- contract $890, which is 8 times more.

In fact I thought of signing the contract since 3 months of no-discount is already more then 2 years of subscriptions.

But my friend warn me the hassle if I am unable to renew my lease with my landlord, I have to terminate my phone line and will auto-early terminate my 2 year contract which they might charge me more ridiculous amount even though i am willing to pay up the balance subscription for the next 21 months.

So i paid 8 times more then the usual rate for 3 months.

Robbing? I guess no different.

Anonymous said...

It is quite scary in a way especially for those who may not be alert or that good in English to respond.

yamizi said...

I using broadband...besides the darn modem who screws me up at time, so far the bill is okay...but this is scary...

Anonymous said...

It happened to my M1 line too. I was in KL when I received several SMSes saying that by MP3 tunes, video, and god knows what were activated. There were 7 different types of features which I didn't remember applying. I smsed back to unsubscribe, yes using autoroam which means 50 cents per sms to unsubscribe to something I didn't purchase. They removed the features a few minutes later. But still I spent money of the smses to subscribe. I feel cheated. Once my contract ends, I will switch to starhub.

Anonymous said...

I had to unsubscribe one feature at a time, that means $3.50 for nothing!

Anonymous said...

I am thinking of switching to pre-paid as well as my 2year plan expired without renewal. To do that, can I still use the same mobile number when doing this switch (does number portability applies in this case - prepaid service?

Thanks for replying.

Anonymous said...

This case sounds so similar to the human organs "repossession" (upon death) case. Whereby, if u don't opt out, it means "you're ON/IN". It seems to me, the strategy here is to exploit the people's ignorance or carelessness or laziness or "can't be bothered attitude", to take action and make the choice to opt out. We ought to think if it is a fair practice in the first place? And should we concerned that this practice be repeated and applied subsequently to some other matters (that REALLY matters) in the near future?

Anonymous said...

It's the same case as NS. There's no way of telling you how to get the fuck out of NS for your boys on the Mindef website. They impose traps with grey grounds.

The Singapore PAP machinery is out to put you in debt and chains.

Anonymous said...

Singtel = mafia phone company. You don't do business with mafias, so why give any business to STinktel/StinkNet? and that include those stupid dumbasses who bought iphones!

Anonymous said...

Mr Tan,

I have been a regular reader of your columns and have benefitted greatly from it.

If a person like you could be makaned by Singtel.. people like us could be chewed into pieces and swalllowed by them without any trace...

Is there a way for you to lead a fight against them... for example.. you may refuse to pay.. face them in court.. challenge them on the "Opt In, Opt Out" assumption...

What about those who could not read English...

Anonymous said...

sign u free line with for 3xxxxxxx number, forwarding available, top up credit whenever low, comes with free fax. just a happy user here. cheers!

Oliever said...

I, too, was cheated years ago by SINKtel the crook of a company. I retained my singtel account number and ported it over to M1.

Then i received a letter demanding me to pay THREE penalty charges. That's $750!! I called and asked for the reason, they said i upgraded my account/phone twice in the past, which means the 2-year penalty period is RESET. And when i cancel, it cancels three accounts, so i pay three penalties.

Unfortunately i was too young and not aggressive enough to fight back. If i pursued the case i might have won - i did not sign any document that lets me know i will pay penalties for three accounts.

Anonymous said...

I can't even bother to finish ur blog post bad for u, i learn abt them back in the pager days when they could charge me wrongly for even monthly fixed subscription. I refuse to use any of singtel's service from then on which was like 10 years back come to think of it. But there's a good side to these all, singtel is making hell lot of money from all this antics... and watch me become rich amid such difficult times by buying singtel shares. That's the least singtel can do for me.

Anonymous said...

Wah lao .... after kena mini-bonk and high 5 u still dun get it har?!

icewine said...

It is indeed shocking to see StinkNet resorting to these underhand means in order to get people to subscribe for more than what they bargained for. This is almost immoral!

All that penalties and termination fees should have been stated and agreed upon in black and white. In the eyes of the law, all and any clause as such should be highlighted to the users before they sign. Posting a notice merely is not enough, it has to be read and understood! At least my M1 provider went through all the terms and conditions (fine-print included) with me.

What a laugh for a supposedly trustworthy provider. Nothing but a legalized crook.

I switched from SingTel to M1 when I realized that after being 4 years with them, they didnt bother to make any offers to me for broadband and mobile line for retention purposes. And the mobile bills are always in the range of $200 (my plan is only $28) regardless of my monthly usuage.

Anonymous said...

pumpkin said...
Shocking behavior of a govt linked company. I would expect it to show exemplary business ethic expected of a govt linked co.

There is nothing shocking at all to that kind of behaviour, especially from any GLCs and where they are derived from.

Absolutely unprincipled, and out to fleece to further enrich themselves.

рестораны в барселоне said...

Quite effective material, lots of thanks for the article.

Seolli said...

Hi, I am currently a student in Singapore.

I am trying to pay my bills independently without my parents help but recently, my line was terminated by Singtel without any warnings due to me not paying my bills regularly .I agree that it is my fault for not paying it but that was because i was busy studying and my schedule does not allow me to work part time during the weekdays as i end school around 5 and reach home at 6 and I usually have to write a report on what i learnt that day with a few other home works before going to bed and during the weekends, it is usually the time for me to study and revise as there is no time for me to study during the weekdays.

So when i finally had my holidays in order to save up money to pay my bills, my service was disconnected. I was fine with it as long as i could still use Wifi to contact my family and friends.

However, i did pay a few dollars to make up for it as I heard from my friend's uncle who worked in Singtel that if i pay my bills slowly they will not terminate my contract.

But here I am, only a month after my service was disconnected and I was only left with a few days to receive my pay to pay for my bills and they terminated my line by stating it in the next bill without me knowing. The only letter that I received before that was a letter saying they will terminate it soon but it wasn't a warning letter. I was expecting a warning letter to be sent to me stating that they have already terminated my contract. But by the next bill that i get, my line was already terminated. How could a student pay a $500 bill within a month?

I was only 2 weeks away from paying my bills in full until they terminated my line.

Are they suppose to terminate a customer's contract without consulting them first?
Because I feel cheated that they did this without my consent or even calling my house phone to let me know. :(