6 July 2011

Wherever You May Roam


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Image by Kai Hendry on Flickr
3000417490_54f7876031_z

Who does not own a mobile device nowadays?

Be it a smartphone or a tablet, it is a great convenience to be steadily and ubiquitously online owing to a  mobile network access.
When used abroad, however, the great convenience may easily turn into a great disaster: even the best trip or holiday would be destroyed by a

Shocking Bill

waiting for you in the postbox.

But what would you say if you had to pay

– no more than 24 cents per minute to make a call;
– a maximum of 10 cents per minute to receive a call;
– a maximum of 10 cents to send a text message (SMS) and,
– a maximum of 50 cents per Megabyte (MB) to download data or browse the Internet whilst traveling abroad (charged per Kilobyte used) and

on the top of that your monthly bill when traveling abroad would be limited to
€ 50 (unless you have expressly opted for otherwise) to protect you from a “bill shock”?

That would be

Great News

would it not?

Well, that is today’s news from Brussels: the European Commission has proposed a regulation, which in the view of Commissioner Neelie Kroes would

also immediately bring down prices for data roaming, where operators currently enjoy outrageous profit margins.

Once adopted by the European Council and European Parliament, the regulation is expected to enter into force as of 1 July 2012.

The proposed regulation aims at meeting the objectives set in the Digital Agenda for Europe pursuant to which differences between roaming and national telecoms tariffs should

Approach Zero By 2015

Besides, the European Commission expects that the regulatory instrument creates a market for telecommunications operators specialised in providing roaming services against competitive prices.

I somehow feel reminded of Metallica’s

But I’ll take my time anywhere
Free to speak my mind anywhere
And I’ll redefine anywhere
Anywhere I roam
Where I lay my head is home

What is on your mind?

13 January 2011

Customer Repulsion Management


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M-TELphoto © 2006 B K | more info (via: Wylio)

What is a customer relationship management (CRM)? Wikipedia calls it a “widely implemented strategy to, by means of technology, organize, automate, and synchronize business processes to find, attract, and win new clients as well as to nurture and retain those the company already has.”

How do I come across CRM since it is not really within the scope of the Reguligence Weblog? Well, the last couple of weeks I have read a lot and, when I write “a lot” I mean a lot about the troubles that the customers (subscribers and prepaid users) of the largest Bulgarian mobile network M-Tel have been experiencing since September 2010.

Unfortunately and unlike my usual way of blogging, I can provide the audience with just very few other than Bulgarian-written evidences. I was somewhat upset when I examined the Bulgarian news portals issuing news in English and had to realise that, for whatever reason, they had omitted to cover this story.

Reportedly, the troubles have commenced with M-Tel’s deployment of a new CRM solution provided by Amdocs and resulted, inter alia, in inflated bills and customers’ inability to control their credit balances.

That all happens, one could assert. This is true and, as part of their risk management strategies, operators should have crisis management plans in order to control such events. In this connection customer relationship management in the sense of customer satisfaction is just vital. One could not stress that often again.

Obviously, this is the field where M-Tel just fizzled out. That not enough, they demonstrate an absolute unpreparedness to in general terms maintain  CRM towards their customers. For instance, customers unhappy about M-Tel’s failure to provide certain services cannot just terminate their contracts asserting material breach. Instead, customers must go through a real cascade of sections contained in both, M-Tels general terms and conditions (GTC) and customers’ individual contracts. By means of an example, section 52 of M-Tel’s GTC provides for customers’ right to terminate upon 7 days written notice. However, that warranty is always prejudiced by conditions stated in individual contracts. Unfortunately, such contracts are not retrievable on the Internet. Why, one might ask? M-Tel claims confidentiality and the Bulgarian competition protection authority acknowledges it. But maybe the real reasoning lies in that those individual contracts provide for an automatic renewal upon their expiry, unless customers terminate with 30 days written notice before said expiry. Such notice, if submitted earlier or later than 30 days in advance, would not match the requirement and the contract would renew for an additional year.

Unbelievable, huh?

The only downer on the horizon is the fact that upon numerous complaints and, as late as today, the Bulgarian consumer protection authority started formal proceedings against M-Tel’s business practices. I hope that the authority in question, although equipped with just an edgeless sword by the Bulgarian legislator, thumbs down M-Tels performance and obtains an improvement for their plagued customers.

Otherwise M-Tels CRM will be referred to as “Customer Repulsion Management”.

 

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15 April 2010

Consumers need not pay for delivery, when withdrawing from a distance contract


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logo300 (2)photo © 2010 Pierre Rattini | more info (via: Wylio)

Have you been dispirited to buy things online due to uncertainty as to how far is the reach of your consumer rights? Then if you have, I may hereby present a ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union (ECJ) that provides for more legal clarity and encourages consumers to rely on their rights guaranteed by the Directive 97/7/EC on the protection of consumers in respect of distance contracts.

In particular, the ECJ ruled that suppliers must not seek to recover delivery cost from consumers deciding to withdraw from a distance contract. Funny enough, but the expense underlying the instant case amounted to only EUR 4,95. Yes, you are reading it correct: EUR 4,95. I know, the question as to who on earth would bother the ECJ for that laughable sum would be fully appropriate, however to the extent that, German meticulosity was not concerned. I believe, we should thank the Germans for their soft spot for accuracy and morality thereby resulting in consumer protection in particular and in legal certainty in general.

Having said the above, one should, however, not forget the somewhat special German scheme to protect consumer rights. Germany maintains so-called “Verbraucherzentrallen” or associations for consumer protection which are in charge to observe and enforce consumer rights and interests. In the instant case the association for consumer protection in the province of Nord Rhine – Westphalia succeded in obtaining an injunction against an online supplier and will eventually win the case. As such associations are publicly funded, they do not necessarily fear a defeat in court proceedings. That is most probably the reason for said association’s zeal to go through all the instances for such a case.

From a legal point of view, the ECJ’s ruling is remarkable as it precludes national legislation that does not grant a buying consumer, upon their withdrawal, with an explicit right to reimburse the cost of delivering the goods previously ordered. By so ruling, the ECJ strengthens the consumer protection and bars a possible imbalance between suppliers and consumers in distance contracts.

 

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9 March 2010

Spam


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Spam & Baconphoto © 2010 Robert Simmons | more info (via: Wylio)

I guess every Internet and e-mail user has at least once received a spam, scam or any other sort of a junk mail in their inbox. So far, the system admins at my employer have always managed to filter such undesired messages. Yesterday, however, I received an e-mail that has apparently succeeded to overcome the protection designed to restrain it.

It is not the usual marketing spam telling you how to buy cheap watches or to enlarge certain body parts, but rather a scam mocking an urgent situation. The sender pretends to be Marina Encheva and the e-mail reads as follows:

How’s everything on your end? This has had to come in a hurry and it has left me in a devastating state. I travelled to UK for a volunteer Training Program (UTP 2010), unfortunately for me I was robbed and my wallet was taken at the hotel where I lodged. The Embassy only cleared me of my travelling documents and ticketing since I came in on unofficial purposes. I only need to clear the hotel bills before I can leave but ofcourse they stopped billing me since the incident. I didn’t bring my phones here and the hotel telephone lines were disconnected during the robbery, so I have access to only emails. Please can you send me £1370 as early as possible so I can return home. As soon as I get home I would refund it immediately, I need you to get back to me so I can let you know how to send.


I’m looking forward to hearing from you.


Regards,

Marina.

So what – could the well informed Internet user ask – spam should not bother you anymore in these days – do not overestimate it! To an extent that would be fine – I would reply – but there are not only well informed users surfing the net. The average users’ age is said to amount to 28 years and as a result of Web 2.0’s advent more and more minors are entering the net. No doubt, the Internet brings many advantages that oftenly show its bright side, but spam, scam & Co show definitely its dark one.

Spam mails are in the most times misleading or even fraudulent. Hence they have the potential to cause damage to their recipients. Yes, just look at the above spam mail and consider the “professional” drafting skill applied to create it. The most users, I am sure,  would cross-read and then delete such a mail. A certain, maybe small percentage would read it carefully, and then spend some time questioning its authenticity prior to deleting it. An even smaller percentage might consider some support and probably contact the sender with an offer to help. That’s it, that’s how it works. This is what these guys are aiming at.

It is possible that the sender’s e-mail account has been hacked and misused by a wrongdoer. It is however possible that the sender is truly experiencing the described difficulties.

In any case, I will take the risk and have the sender, whoever she or he may be, wait for my reply until the cows come home.

 

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21 November 2009

Facebook faces class action for fraudulent game practices


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YoVille Monetization Structure and Strategyphoto © 2009 i a walsh | more info (via: Wylio)

Do you have an account on Facebook? And are you probably tired of reading messages like “your friend XXX just won first place on Fraternity’s Drinking Bout”*? Well, such messages are likely to disappear or at least become less in future.

The reason behind is that Facebook and its social network games’ supplier Zynga are currently facing a class action for having fraudulently lured social networks users to lose money in online games, ads and quizzes.

The lead claimant in the case is a woman named Rebecca Swift, who has been charged over $165 as a result of accepting a “free” ad offer in exchange for YoCash usable in Zynga’s YoVille virtual world. She claims neither to have accepted an offer nor to have acted in an intent to be legally bound.

Both defendants counter that the ad offers in suit were provided by outside undertakings for whom they were not liable. The claimant, however, alleges the defendants displayed the fraudulent offers knowingly and were thus liable.

The suit seeks to obtain upwards of $5 million in damages.

 

*The game’s name is absolutely fictional.