Between 24 September 2014 and 5 November 2014, the Media Development Authority (the “MDA”) is conducting a public consultation on its proposed recommendations to enhance consumer protection measures under the Media Market Conduct Code (the “MMCC”).
Set out below is a summary of the key recommendations.
- No ETCs for unilateral contract variations: The MDA proposes to prohibit early termination charges (“ETCs”) if pay-TV subscribers terminate their fixed term contracts due to a retailer’s unilateral decision to increase subscription fee, and/or remove channel(s), and/ or remove material content within a channel. However, subscribers may only terminate their contracts without ETCs no later than 30 days from the date of change to the service. Where the contract is a bundled services contract, the option to exit the contract would apply only to the pay-TV service contract. A retailer may charge ETCs for equipment not essential to the provision of the service, such as for laptops and tablets, subject to certain conditions. A retailer who takes the appropriate mitigating action(s), such as reducing the subscription fee or replacing the removed channel, may charge ETCs for subscribers who exit their contracts.
- No forced upgrade of non-pay-TV services: The MDA proposes to prohibit retailers from forcing their subscribers who wish to purchase a new pay-TV service or make changes to an existing pay TV service to:
- Change the terms of any non-pay-TV service contract which the subscriber has with the retailer; and/or
- Terminate a non-pay-TV service contract which the subscriber has with the retailer, where the subscriber still has an existing fixed term pay-TV service contract with the retailer.
Retailers may still offer such upgrades as options for their subscribers’ consideration.
- Highlight important terms and conditions of service: As standard form consumer contracts are often long and drafted in legal language that may not be easily understood by subscribers, the MDA proposes requiring retailers to highlight the following important terms before a contract is signed:
- Specifics on price, channels and material content within a channel
- Presence of unilateral variation contract clauses and the applicable consumer recourse
- Changes to service upon the expiry of promotional or continuous service(s)
- Duration for which complimentary content/ services are available, and applicable charges thereafter
- When applicable charges will apply for free trials
- Consent for free trial and retention of marketing materials: Retailers must also obtain subscribers’ consent to continue with the trial and/or complimentary service before charging any fee. To facilitate enforcement and investigation, retailers would be asked to retain records of their marketing materials for at least three years, and to supply such materials to the MDA upon request.
- Protection of subscriber service information: With the introduction of the Personal Data Protection Act in 2014, the MDA also considered the relevance of the provisions relating to the duty of Regulated Persons (i.e. broadcasting licensees and proprietor of newspapers) to protect subscriber service information (“SSI”). The MDA proposes to remove the MMCC provisions relating to the protection of SSI, namely the information covered under SSI, the restrictions on the use and disclosure of SSI, and the requirement to obtain consent from subscribers for the use of SSI.
- Rationalisation of broadcast licence and MMCC: The MDA also intends to transfer the following licence conditions from the respective broadcasting licences to the MMCC so as to provide greater transparency to the industry and consumers on the regulatory requirements imposed on its licensees:
- Provide a month’s notification to subscribers for changes in channel line-up and price increase
- Provide a six-month notice before the termination of operations, or any part of its service
- Publish charges, terms and conditions of their services to their customers
In the pipeline
This is the first consultation in a series of public consultations which the MDA will be conducting as part of its regular review of the MMCC. Subsequent consultations will cover other provisions in the MMCC, including the public interest obligations (such as cross-carriage, anti-siphoning and video archival operator(s)’ obligations), competition and enforcement procedures.
The following materials are available from the MDA www.mda.gov.sg: