UKE: Deactivation of pre-paid accounts is justified

Does the validity period of a pre-paid user’s account violate consumer rights? UKE answers questions about the principles of prepaid services in mobile networks.

UKE: Deactivation of pre-paid accounts is justified

UKE, following queries from consumers about the provisions of the terms and conditions of pre-paid services in mobile networks, has decided to issue a statement on the matter – explaining why, after a period specified by the operator from the date of the user’s account top-up, the SIM card becomes inactive and the money accumulated on the user’s account is lost.

The Telecommunications Act does not regulate pre-paid service. Detailed rules regarding the provision of pre-paid services are specified in the regulations and price lists of pre-paid services provided by the operators.

UKE explains that the operator providing pre-paid services incurs a number of costs related to the operation of the SIM card in the network even after the end of the card activity period, the length of which depends on the value of the account top-up. Although the user has an inactive account and cannot make outgoing calls, the operator still provides “incoming” services for some time.

During the entire period of account inactivity, the operator remains ready to resume the full range of telecommunications services. This results in the need to maintain the account in information systems and network elements. The operator must maintain the SIM card in its network systems throughout this period. Although the user does not use outgoing services, the operator must have information on the location of the terminal in question, allowing it to locate the terminal and set up the call. It is also necessary to reserve a given customer number.

For UKE, all the above activities require more expenditures on maintaining sufficient capacity of IT systems and network elements than it would result from the number of users adding credit to their accounts and actively using the network, which obviously increases operator’s costs.

On the other hand, the purchaser of a pre-paid card knew, and certainly with due diligence could have known, the terms and conditions applicable to the pre-paid service system. Meanwhile, according to the rule binding in Polish legal system, in Poland, you cannot plead ignorance of legal regulations. Conclusion? An attempt to explain ignorance after deactivation of an account will not bring anything.

The Office compares principles of the pre-paid service to activities performed “in everyday life”, writing about buying a public transport card or a swimming pool pass. The consumer then makes a prepayment for the services he wishes to use. This prepayment is valid for a specific period of time and it does not matter whether the consumer uses the services for which he has prepaid or not. There is also no way to recover the “invested” money.

Based on this information, for UKE deactivation of user accounts does not violate the provisions of the regulations and generally applicable rules on prepaid services.

At UKE’s request, operators provided information on the validity of cards. As it turns out, for Polkomtel (the operator of Plus and Samych Swoich), the card validity: maximum is 6 months. In Polska Telefonia Cyfrowa network (Era, Tak Tak and Heyah) card validity varies from 1 to 7 months (an account cannot be valid for more than 12 months). In the PTK Centertel network (Oragne) the validity period increases with the amount of the top-up.

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