Verify that subscription is real before charging

A couple of months ago, I received an SMS stating that I had subscribed to content from a service provider called Buongiorno-Gamifive and would be charged $24 monthly ("Customer left in the lurch over unauthorised 'subscription'" by Mr Tan Meng Meow; last Wednesday).

I assumed that the SMS was sent to me in error or was a hoax, and ignored it.

Then, I received my Singtel bill for May, which reflected the mentioned charge.

Upon making a complaint to Singtel, I was informed that I must have somehow signed up for the content by registering on the third-party service provider's website, or by downloading a third-party application.

Since these services were offered by third parties, I was advised to seek clarification on the content services and charges directly from the service provider.

This response was highly unsatisfactory, given that Singtel was the entity seeking to extract payment for the service.

To be fair, Singtel was prompt in its response, liaised with the service provider on my behalf to get the charge waived, and assisted me in activating a barring service to prevent me from incurring similar charges in future.

But what is disturbing is that, despite asking many times what exactly I was supposed to have done to have subscribed to the service, I am none the wiser.

Singtel suggested that I had activated the subscription after clicking on the service provider's pop-up ad.

But how can simply clicking on an ad on a Web page result in a subscription?

Why does Singtel, as the collection agency, not do anything to check that its customers had in fact agreed to a subscription before charging them?

I imagine that there are other unsuspecting Singtel customers paying for content for which they are unaware that they had subscribed to.

Singtel can certainly do more to protect its customers.

Nicholas Teo Eu Jin

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 06, 2015, with the headline 'Verify that subscription is real before charging'. Print Edition | Subscribe