Shoddy TM services

Recently Telecom Malaysia discontinued its e-mail services without giving sufficient time for consumers to migrate to other alternative e-mail services. Many subscribers of Streamyx were caught by surprise. Why was there no public announcement on the discontinuation so that more subscribers would have been made aware of?

The services terminated were streamyx.com, tm.net.my, hsbb.com.my, bluehyppo.com and unifi.my. Many Streamyx subscribers unaware of the move by TM lost all their email accounts along with valuable documents.

The lucky ones were those who were able to read the e-mail notification or the posting on TM Website. The notice gave just a week for subscribers to migrate to other e-mail services. The short period given to migrate put subscribers through a lot of unnecessary trouble and frustration, especially while our Internet speed has been far below the expectation.

The ridiculously low speed at which Streamyx broadband has been operating for the last 3 months is another serious problem which subscribers have been fuming over. Important messages could not be downloaded with frequent disruptions throughout the day. Even computer classes had to be cancelled for a week or two at some locations in Penang. Why is TM providing such shoddy service and at the same time encouraging subscribers to upgrade to higher broadband speeds?  

CAP has received many complaints from Streamyx broadband subscribers and calls on the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to ensure that fixed line subscribers are given a fair deal and that they are not taken advantage of by TM. TM has to explain why it had to terminate the e-mail services at such short notice.

Letter to the Editor – 18 December 2013

Act immediately on Reggae chain of hostels

The Consumers Association of Penang today calls on the Commissioner of Tourism to immediately check whether license has been issued to the controversial Reggae chain of hostels in Penang and Kuala Lumpur and if registered, to charge the registered owner or proprietor for contravening the Tourism Industry Act 1992 and if not then to revoke their registration immediately. The Local Councils should also act against these hostels.
 
This call is made in view of the hostel’s announcement that the hostel does not accept bookings by Malaysian, Indian and Middle Eastern nationals.  This is a new form of “Apartheid” and total discrimination against a selected group of people.

 The conditions posted on their website www.travellerspoint.com/accommodation/65656-Reggae-Penang reads:
 
“Please read our notice before you make bookings:
Wheel chair is not accessible.
We do not accept guests 60 years old above.
Reggae Mansion is a hostel for international backpackers.  Unfortunately, we do not accept bookings by Malaysian, Indian and Middle Eastern nationals.  Reservations made by these nationalities will deem to be null and void.”

 
The hostel in a statement had said that they observed this policy as non halal food is served in this hostel restaurant.  
 
The definition of accommodation premises in the Tourism Industry Act 1992 clearly means “any building, including hostels, hotels, inns, boarding-houses, rest houses and lodging houses, held out by the proprietor, owner or manager, either wholly or partly as offering lodging or sleeping, accommodation to tourists for hire or any other form of reward, whether or not food or drink is also offered.”
 
Hence, the excuse that non halal food is being served on this premise does not carry weight.
 
The Act also states that any person who fails to comply with or contravenes any provision of this Act for which no specific penalty is expressly provided shall be guilty of an offence and shall, on conviction, be liable to a fine not exceeding five thousand ringgit or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to both and in the case of a continuing offence, shall, in addition, be liable to a daily fine not exceeding five hundred ringgit for each day the offence continues to be committed.
 
The Commissioner of Tourism should act on the hostel immediately and ensure that they are charged in accordance to the Act and if found guilty, make the sentencing most deterrent so that this form of discrimination would not be emulated by any other person or company.
 
Press Statement – 9 November 2011

Stall the imposition of 6% service tax on mobile prepaid users

CAP calls on the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to stall the move by the telco companies to impose the 6% service tax on mobile prepaid users.

The telco companies claim that they have been for absorbing the tax since its imposition in 1998 and due to dwindling revenues, they have now to pass it on to the consumers. To say that their revenues are dwindling is far from true.

Mobile prepaid users have been facing the brunt of the unfair terms and conditions imposed on them by telco companies especially when the companies swallow/forfeit the balance in their account when they do not reload or top up their account within the validity periods.

To maintain a prepaid number the customers are required to top up a minimum sum of RM5-00. However topping up a sum of RM30 will give a validity period of 30 days.  At the expiry of the 30 days, customers are blocked from making calls but incoming calls are valid for another 90 days. The customers are able to activate the line by topping up the lines credit anytime within the 90 days limit. If the line is not topped up with the 90 days limit the line is cancelled and whatever credit balance that still exists is forfeited and no refund is given.  For example, if a prepaid user has a line which has a RM100 balance available but the validity period is expired the telco company will forfeit the available balance.  Is this legal? And if it is, under what rules and regulations are these companies allowed to forfeit the available balance. Countries like England have stopped telco operators from using this practice. There should be a system where a number shall have lifetime validity and at any time the customers want to activate the line (even after the expiry period) all they have to do is top up the line and it should be activated.  For example a foreign businessman who comes to Malaysia say three or four times a year and requires a local phone number but does not want to have a postpaid line which has a monthly charge of approximately RM30 should be able to get a prepaid line which will have a lifetime validity but with an expiry period in accordance to the sum that the customer tops up. If upon his return to Malaysia the validity has expired all he will have to do is to get the line topped up and service should be resumed rather than the line becoming invalid and having to get a new line and starting all over.

Consumers may not realise but both prepaid and postpaid users are being charged for calls that are not answered or for calls that being diverted to voice mail boxes.  The charge at present is 10 sen.  Consumers can actually get a refund from the telco operators for such charges provided they can present their statements as proof.  However in the case of prepaid users, statements are not provided unless the user requests for the statement.  Given the fact that there are several million users and several million calls being made, telco operators can rake in a tidy sum every month from this charges.  This is clearly profiteering and action should be taking against the companies for this.

CAP calls on the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to stall every effort made by the telco operators from imposing this service tax and instead address all the shortcomings and unfair terms imposed on mobile phone users.

Press Statement – 9 September 2011

What is the outcome of discussions between the Ministry of Information and MCMC with Astro?

Astro has already started billing subscribers with the new rates despite the many objections raised by subscribers and Parliament. Contradicting statements were made by various authorities leaving subscribers confused. Consumers’ Association of Penang (CAP) has been inundated with calls from aggrieved subscribers.

In early June 2011, Astro announced its plan to revise the monthly subscription rates. Following the protests from subscribers, the authorities reacted positively in support of the subscribers, while Astro remained adamant to its stance.

The price revision was to take effect on 11 July 2011 and subscribers have even received their bills with the new rates. Confused subscribers are now going in circles making phone calls to find out what they are supposed to do while waiting for the outcome of the discussions between Astro and the authorities. While there are those that have decided to boycott Astro services, others are wondering whether to pay the old rates or the new rates.

CAP calls on the Ministry of Information, Communications and Culture as well as the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission to:

• Stop Astro from going ahead with the revised rates;
• Ensure that Astro improves its services, including rain fade problem;
• That Astro disconnects the 6 free-to-air television channels from the Astro decoder so that they will not be affected by weather conditions;
• That pay-TV equipment be made available in the free market.

Letter to the Editor – 8 August 2011

See CAPs view of Astro's monopoly and service here

Astro’s monopoly has short-changed Malaysian TV viewers

Malaysians are gullible enough to be taken for a long ride by Astro, as the government has given Astro too much leeway. This has caused Malaysian TV viewers to be short-changed and at the same time snuffed out other operators from entering the market and providing better service. Such a phenomenon is only seen in Malaysia, with only one pay TV operator given exclusive licence for 20 years.

The scenario is different in other countries where viewers have a few operators offering programs at lower rates:

• In India there are 6 Pay TV operators:
• Indonesia 6 and
• In Australia 3;
• The pricing is another factor. In India there are operators that offer up to 155 channels for as low as RM9.17.

In contrast Astro is offering the cheapest package at RM64.61 which includes a family package and a choice of 3 mini packages which adds up to about 50 channels. There are 33 channels in the family package but 6 of them are free-to-air channels like TV1 to TV9.

The combination of channels in the family package is such that only a small number of channels is likely to be of interest to any particular demography of society. So the subscribers are made to pay for channels that may not be of interest to them.

The free-to-air channels are fed through the Astro decoder. When service is disrupted owing to rain fade, even these channels will not be available to the viewers.

Rain Fade has been a frequent complaint of subscribers. In 2008, Astro was assuring subscribers that after the migration from MEASAT 2 Satelite to MEASAT 3, this problem would be reduced by 30%, but there seems to be no such improvement.

Astro is supplying a newly designed dish free for HD B.yond subscribers. In actual fact subscribers are made to fork out extra RM20 monthly on top of the installation charges and other charges. However, the high definition reception is still available though the old standard dish. The new dish was originally intended to reduce rain fade problem. Astro should change to the new dish for all existing subscribers free, since subscribers are denied of service during rain.

High definition reception is available only for a limited number of channels. When more channels are available in high definition later on Astro will likely increase the charges further.

Moreover, Astro controls the market for pay TV equipment and accessories. The subscribers should be allowed to purchase such equipment in the free market and use them as long as those equipment conform to Malaysian Standards and are certified by SIRIM-MCMC. Why is Astro enjoying a monopoly even in the sale of equipment and accessories?

For Astro subscribers it is nothing but pay, pay and pay for everything from the day of installation and even when they decide for early termination. Late payment charges, reinstallation charges and servicing charges add on. As if that is not enough, the channels are repackaged almost every two years once and priced higher, leaving many poor viewers in a fix. Effective from 11 July 2011 another price adjustment and repackaging is expected to come into force.

After collecting all these charges Astro goes on with commercial advertisements which are purposely slotted in to interrupt the program during the middle of a show. This is very annoying and definitely short-changing pay-TV viewers.

Astro was given exclusive license for 20 years till 2017 but has been reluctant to migrate to the Communication and Multimedia Act 1998, even though pressured by the Ministry to do so.

CAP calls for the following changes:

• The Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC) is helping the business community like Astro instead of helping the poor public. As the regulators they should be doing more;

• Instead of increasing prices, Astro should consider changing the assortment of channels in the family package and splitting it into smaller packages to make it more affordable. As the viewership has reached 3 million households, Astro should be able to accommodate the reduction in pricing;

• The government should encourage new pay-TV operators and allow TV accessories to be sold in the free market like in other countries;

• The dish should be made lighter using lighter material, for easy transportation.

Press Statement – 20 June 2011