Ringtones, logos, games and other mobile content services are paid for as part of the cell phone bill. The consumer, however, may not know what charges are included on a bill that is often surprisingly large. Itemized billing is not yet available except by ordering and paying for it separately. Someone who does not think to order the itemization could make regular payments without realizing it for services joined half-accidentally, since the regular phone bill charges for services as a lump sum.
An amendment to the Act on the Protection of Privacy in Electronic Communications is already being considered by Parliament, but a section concerning itemization is still in rudimentary form and has been tabled for the time being. Legislation about itemization is already urgently needed, however. The Consumer Agency receives plenty of complaints from consumers about mobile content services. Mobile phones will remain marginal as a useful means of payment unless bill itemization is improved.
Regulations must secure consumers' right to a bill that is completely itemized free of charge, without being separately requested, whenever a mobile phone is being used for making payments. Even now, the mobile phone as a means of payment is very similar to a credit card. If there is a genuine desire to develop this mobile phone functionality, billing must also be elevated to a level comparable to that for credit cards.
New mobile phone services
One of the biggest problems with communications services at this time involves services that a consumer commits to unawares. A consumer orders a ringtone, for example, and finds that he or she has signed up for a service to receive more that were not requested. If a consumer does not notice information about a service being continued for a fee, he or she may also not notice it on the phone bill. The fee could hide out for months in the lump sum paid for service messages. If the bill were clearly itemized, the consumer could correct the situation at an early stage, saving the operator's resources as well as his or her own.
The Consumer Agency has submitted a statement on the amendment to the Ministry of Transport and Communications.
- Fully Itemised Invoices Would Make Mobile Handsets into Genuine Payment Instruments (Current Issues on Consumer Law 3/2006)