Comments of Olga Borisova on the article “Adverse roaming”

12 March 2013
Despite the promises of some mobile operators Russians who use their services abroad still can "go into the red" and be indebted to tens of thousands roubles. An example of one Petersburger shows that the mobile operators use the services of the collector agencies to recover these debts.

Two and a half years ago, Vladimir Putin instructed the Federal Antimonopoly Service to take action to operators who raise prices on international roaming and apply the so-called "offline charging" of such services because it does not allow the customer to control his or her expenses and to prevent debts. A prime example was the one regarding the newlyweds from Vladimir, who were using the USB-modem by the "Megaphone” during their honeymoon in Greece and has spent more than a million rubles. The company has even threatened to withdraw the apartment from the customer, but ultimately failed in the lawsuit.

All of the "Big Three" operators (the "Vimpel-Communications", the "Megaphone" and the MTS) performed the requirements of the FAS and the Prime Minister during the spring-summer 2011 by lowering prices on the abroad services and shifting to online billing.

"The introduction of the new service will allow the customers to better the control of their roaming expenses and not to go into the red or below the credit threshold using the mobile Internet in roaming”, says the vice-president on commerce of the MTS Mikhail Gerchuk - We believe that the launch of an online billing will make the journeys of our customers more comfortable and allow them to enjoy the freedom of mobile services without fearing of an unexpectedly large bill ".

Similar promises extended the "VimpelCom" (brand "Beeline") and the head of the "MegaFon" OAO (JSC) Sergei Soldatenkov who ensured that the company "will not file new actions on recovering of debts which were formed due to international roaming”.
However, in fact, some of these promises are not fulfilled. For instance, a Petersburger Mikhail Sukhachev unexpectedly received a letter from the collection agency, acting on behalf of the "MTS" and requiring payment of a debt for almost 20 thousand roubles. Then, Mr. Sukhachev found out that in July 2012 in Finland there were downloaded 26 MB of Internet traffic with the SIM-card registered on his name, although the account balance was only 93 roubles. The first and only notice on the debt Mr. Sukhachev got only six months ago - exactly at the end of the six months claim period.
The representatives of the “MTS” explained to the journalist of the "Fontanka" that the said write-off and the invoice are not a technical error. The thing is that the "online billing" for some types of tariff plans does not preclude the delay in getting the data from roaming partners. However, the particular tariff plans could not be named by the MTS representatives.

In addition, the press secretary of the MTS branch Veronika Byalkovskaya sees no contradiction between the promises of the top-management of the MTS and the actions of the company: "Some of the statements in this press release may contain projections or forecasts of future events or future financial results in accordance with the provisions of the U.S. Securities Act as of 1995. These statements contain the words "expect", "estimate", "intend", "will", "could" or other similar expressions ... ", explains Ms. Byalkovskaya.

Such an interpretation of these promises was surprising for all the lawyers surveyed by the "Fontanka" journalists. "U.S. law cannot be applied to the relations between the Russian company and the Russian customer. The clause presented by the "MTS" clause applies, obviously, only to the relationship of the company with the U.S. investors. In addition, in a release, I see no "maybe": all the promises are presented clearly and should be performed by the operator”, thinks Olga Borisova, lawyer at the “S&K Vertical”, Attorneys at Law.

Same opinion is also Alexandra Ulezko from the "Kachkin and partners" law firm:"The information published on the official website of the company is the information for the consumer. In case of the unreliability of such information the consumer has the right to demand full compensation for damages. In this case, in my view, the courts should take into account that consumer using the mobile Internet roaming expects that the fee is debited instantly and after the moment the balance reaches 0, the provision of service is automatically stopped. In case of provision of false information to the consumer he will suffer demands represented by the costs written off later. Such actions of the "MTS" may also be regarded as unfair competition ", says the lawyer.

According to the MTS competitors, their consumers could not get into such a situation as Mikhail Sukchachev. The TELE2 has originally applied only online billing; the "Megaphone" has introduced it July 2011 by the provision of data services, but only when the consumer uses the standard APN (access points that are "stitched" in your phone).

"To the pre-paid tariff plans owners the online billing of the GPRS-roaming is available since 2008 in all countries, comments the press-service of the "Vimpel-Communications ". - The negative balance of such subscribers in GPRS-roaming is not possible, since all billing and service management are executed on our side, no matter what systems are installed by the roaming partner. "

Michael Sukhachev has already appealed to the Rospotrebnadzor and Roskomnadzor, which will provide legal opinion on he actions of the MTS. To be mentioned, that this situation is not the first incident of unexpected debts by the provision of roaming services by this operator. Thus, the arbitrazh court confirmed that the cancellation of more than three thousand roubles by Ms. Podoliak was illegal: she was in Ivangorod, but the operator charged calls as made in Estonia. As the evidence of the inability to use roaming services the court recognized the foreign passport of Ms. Podoliak with no stamp on crossing the border in. Late February, the final decision of the court came into force.

Pavel Netupsky,

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