Unsolicited Roaming Services

April 6, 2017

These days it has become quite significant to be able to travel to any part of the world, whether for business or leisure, and still be able to use your mobile phone and local SIM card to make calls and use data services. This service which lets your local SIM connect to the rest of the world, from anywhere in the world, is known as roaming.

Mobile Service Providers in Fiji have quite recently launched this roaming service for its pre-paid customers. This simply means that you are able to use your local pre-paid SIM card in selected overseas destinations.

However, should one decide to opt for this service then they should do so at their own free will and not have it imposed on them by default. Such was the case in Mr. Kumar’s situation.

The Consumer Council of Fiji had received a complaint where Mr. Kumar was on holiday in Australia and was using his phone which had his local pre-paid SIM card. Prior to leaving Fiji, Mr. Kumar had well noted that he had quite a significant amount of credit left on his phone. Whilst on holiday, he was only using Wi-Fi services to access data services.

Upon returning from his holiday, much to his dismay, Mr. Kumar noticed that he had insufficient credit to make calls from his mobile phone. He then lodged an enquiry with his Service Provider and was advised that his credit balance was deducted for data usage as per their system log. He had advised the provider that he was using Wi-Fi and asked how it could be possible that his Fiji SIM card could work let alone have access to data whilst in a different country.  

Mr. Kumar was then advised that by default, all pre-paid SIM cards have been enabled with roaming services which basically means that consumers who travel overseas with their local SIM are automatically switched to the roaming service. This came as a surprise to him as he was not aware let alone advised of this default option.

The Council sought clarification from the Service Provider regarding the matter. According to the Service Provider if the customer was using Wi-Fi but happened to be in a weak Wi-Fi zone, the system automatically looks for stronger signal as the next best connectivity.   In such case if mobile data was turned on, it will get connected to mobile data.  This explanation from the Service Provider is bit strange as they did not explain from the log how the phone could be switched on and off so many times as one moves in and out of Wi-Fi zones.

The Service Provider recommends that the customer either removes the SIM when he/she travels abroad to avoid this situation or advise them of the date of travel so that they can manually disconnect the SIM from roaming access.

If the consumer has to call the Service Provider to get his/her SIM manually disconnected from roaming access then why can’t consumers call the Service Provider to opt in for the service?

The various solutions given by the Service Provider is burdensome. Every time a consumer who travels abroad will have to inform the Service Provider so that SIM is disconnected from roaming.   This shouldn’t be necessary and removing those micro-SIMs from an iPhone is also cumbersome.

There is another Service Provider which gives the exact same service in Fiji. The only difference is that they do not make this a default service but rather ask consumers to opt in prior to travelling overseas for a certain charge.

Like Mr. Kumar, there are other consumers who have fallen prey to such unsolicited practice. Why such services is forced upon consumers when they have not requested for that service? This service was neither advised to the consumer upon purchasing of the product nor was it requested for by the consumer.

According to the Sale of Goods Act Cap. 230 unsolicited means, in relation to goods sent or services rendered to any person, that they are sent or rendered without any prior request made by him or on his behalf”

As per section 74 (2) of the Sales of Goods Act:

A person is not liable to make any payment and is entitled to recover a payment made by him in full or part satisfaction of a charge or fee under a contract or agreement for the supply of a prescribed service, unless there has been signed by that person, or a person authorised by him in that behalf, a note complying with this section and that first-mentioned person has been supplied with a copy of the note as signed by him or on his behalf.”

The Council expects the Service Provider to stop setting roaming services on default on all pre-paid SIM cards. Let consumers decide whether they want to opt in for roaming services or not. It is ironical that the same Service Provider expects all post- pay consumers to call in for roaming services but that choice is not given to pre-pay consumers.