Telecommunications service providers demonstrated exceptional care and fairness during the state of danger caused by the pandemic. Due to people staying at home en masse and the isolation, there has been a dramatic increase in the demand for information as working and teaching from home have become everyday practices. All of this has put excess burden on telecommunications service providers: there has been an increased demand in larger data packages and new internet, television and telephone connections. All that has significantly heightened the strain on customer services, moreover, the discontinuation of personal customer services and the constraint to stay at home made it challenging for many to pay bills and observe payment deadlines. During the state of danger, the Office of the Commissioner for Media and Communications operating within the National Media and Infocommunications Authority (NMHH) has experienced an over twenty percent increase in complaints compared to the same period of the previous year. The categories of complaints based on their subject do not fundamentally differ from those in the previous period, yet there has been an increase in cases which had become particularly detrimental in the situation at hand. Experience shows that service providers did their best to satisfactorily resolve all complaints. The Office of the Commissioner for Media and Communications welcomes in particular the creative and flexible solutions of service providers who made extraordinary decisions to anticipate the problems.
Exemplary complaint handling
Some service providers chose not to restrict services due to outstanding fees from March, and in fact, they did not send payment reminders or notifications, whilst others fulfilled requests for payment in instalments and suspension without examining the grounds for the said requests.
Several providers changed their previous processes for handling complaints and introduced unique measures: they gave payment extensions for clients who lost their jobs and temporarily suspended the collection of debts or have foregone restricting services due to outstanding fees. In May, they extended the payment deadline or time of restriction by 15 days, and in the case of cancellations, they extended the deadline for returning the devices; thus making it easier for clients whose lives were challenged by the pandemic and quarantine.
Discounts tailored to quarantine
All major service providers offered extra mobile data packages, along with special television packages and free educational materials. The discounts were extended or renewed from time to time, and new connections and troubleshooting were handled with urgency.
In March, Telekom activated free extra data for residential, small and large business clients, as well as for post-paid and prepaid mobile subscribers; from May, clients received double the previous data amount at the original price. Telenor’s residential and business clients could activate additional mobile internet services until the end of March. Vodafone provided an extra data quota for residents and SME clients on three occasions in March, April and May.
The National Media and Infocommunications Authority particularly welcomes the measures of Vodafone that provided prepaid clients over sixty-five years of age with additional voice minutes for a period of ninety days, given that older clients with prepaid packages don’t primarily communicate via mobile net, but rather through voice calls. The NMHH already urged the introduction of this at the beginning of the state of danger for all service providers.
The Commissioner’s full report is available here.