TRA instructs Etisalat and du to cap data bundles
The new directive is part of the TRA's goal to protect consumer interests and to prevent "bill shock"
The Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) has issued a directive ordering the region's operators Etisalat and du to place a hard cap on mobile data bundles to protect consumers from additional charges.
The Directive (1) of 2016 applies to all mobile data bundles, whether included as part of the main subscription or purchased as an optional add-on. The directive obligates the operators to limit the supply of mobile data to the size of the bundle, once the bundle is exhausted, the licensee cannot supply further mobile data unless the consumer gives express consent.
The directive serves as a safety net measure to protect mobile data subscribers from that the TRA calls "bill shock".
H.E. Hamad Obaid Al Mansoori, TRA Director General, said: "We are concerned with the potential for consumers to receive larger-than-expected charges for their out-of-bundle mobile data usage. We acknowledge that both Etisalat and du have provided various tools to enable their customers to monitor their data usage and manage their costs. However, we note that not all consumers use such tools. It is also inherently difficult to estimate how much data is actually being consumed while, for example, browsing the internet or sending e-mails."
"Consumers may not be aware of the actual costs associated with such mobile data usage and this could lead to ‘bill shock.' We aim to address the issue once and for all through this new directive," Al Mansoori added.
The TRA was concerned about the current arrangements as consumers may or may not know when their bundle has been exhausted and when the over-bundle rates are being charged. Furthermore, the TRA considers it to be unfair to consumers for operators to price the over bundle rate at the same level as the no bundle rate.
Both Etisalat and du can only supply additional data to consumers during this out-of-bundle period if they subscribe to another mobile data bundle, opt-in to be charged at an over-bundle rate; or specifically instruct their service provider to remove the hard cap. As such, the operators must at all times, record the consent and instructions of their subscribers.
According to the TRA, consumers who are currently subscribed to any alternative usage cap mechanisms for mobile data must be migrated to the hard cap mechanism. However, those subscribers may be provided with an option to opt-out of the hard cap in favour of their existing cap mechanism.
The TRA also urged Etisalat and du to design and introduce pricing plans that are fairer to the consumer by charging lower rates for over bundle data than the rates charged for no bundle data.