The government is preparing changes for consumers using prepaid telephone cards. Unused money, instead of going to mobile operators so far, will be returned to customers, and if it is not collected within six months, it will be transferred to the Broadband Fund – said Janusz Cieszyński, secretary of state in the Chancellery of the Prime Minister, at a press conference on Wednesday.
The proposal is to be included in the draft Electronic Communications Law (PKE). – At the end of last week, we submitted the draft Electronic Communications Law to the debate of the Standing Committee of the Council of Ministers. This is an implementation of EU regulations, but significantly enriched with a national component – said Janusz Cieszyński, government plenipotentiary for cybersecurity.
In his opinion, “this is the most pro-consumer law in the history of the telecommunications market in Poland”. – This is an act that gives consumers and customers of telecommunications companies new powers – noted Cieszyński.
Prepaid card – money
As the government plenipotentiary said, among the proposed provisions “there was one that aroused some controversy”. – This is a recovery rule for pre-paid phones. Until now, telecommunications operators have made multi-million profits each year from the fact that those funds that we did not use as customers ended up in their budgets – described Cieszyński. He added that thanks to the decisive actions of the President of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection and multi-million penalties imposed by him on operators, operators made it possible for their clients to obtain a refund of these funds.
In February 2020, the President UOKiK issued a decision against Polkomtel, the operator of the Plus network, on which he imposed a fine of over PLN 20 million. However, they undertook to return the money to the recipients T-Mobile, Orange and Play.
– These were the guidelines of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection, and now we are giving it all in the form of a statutory guarantee that, first of all, every subscriber, every customer who has a pre-paid phone will be able to recover funds within six months from the end of the account validity – the government representative emphasized.
Prepaid card – consultations with the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection
As Cieszyński said, in the course of consultations with the President of UOKiK, Tomasz Chróstny, a solution was developed that is to be introduced at the stage of work of the entire Committee of the Council of Ministers.
– Under which each user of prepaid telephony will be able to, when registering, which is now mandatory, of course, it will also apply to customers already using these services, provide the bank account number to which these funds will be automatically transferred – explained the government representative. As he pointed out, “today you have to submit an official application, go to the showroom, or do it online. Moreover, operators charge a special fee of up to PLN 20”.
According to Cieszyński, after the changes, the operator will be able to charge a fee equal to, at most, the cost of the transfer. – So we are reducing the amount of fees that will be imposed on subscribers for these pre-paid phones twenty times – he said.
As he added, only when these funds are not taken within six months, the number of the “bank account will not be given, instead of the accounts of telecommunications operators, these funds will be supplied to the Broadband Fund”. He explained that the Broadband Fund is a special purpose fund, which was established in connection with the remarks of the European Commission, indicating that Poland is to supplement EU funds for digitization with its own funds. – The Fund can be used to finance better access to high-speed internet and equipment for educational institutions – he emphasized.
As he said, funds from the Broadband Fund are also to be used to fight the addiction of children and adolescents to electronic devices. The project is to be implemented jointly with the Ministry of Health. He pointed out that, according to experts, the pandemic has caused this problem to worsen significantly, which will only worsen if appropriate steps are not taken.
Joanna Dębek from the Department of Digital Policy Promotion of the Chancellery of the Prime Minister informed earlier TVN24 Biznes the new regulations will apply “probably from the middle of next year, but it depends on the course of work in the parliament”.
Main photo source: PAP / Paweł Supernak