A few weeks ago, we published an article about a ring-back tone service called “Semme3ni.” We had learned that many Alfa and Touch users had been subscribed to this service and a similar called “Rannat” without their consent.
To our surprise, it seemed that we got the attention of Minister of Telecom Boutros Harb. The National News Agency reported the following on June 24:
Minister of Telecommunications Boutros Harb issued a decision requesting the immediate cancellation of both services “Semme3ni” and “Rannat” from the Alfa and Touch networks, in which both networks obliged subscribers to opt-in without their consent, and enforced them to pay $1 USD for cancellation, which is a breach of the law and will lead for prosecution, and to be referring this matter to the general prosecutor. Minister Harb enforced the removal of any payments for the services provided by these two ringtones.
This appeared to be a positive development. Then, on June 25, Minister Harb met with Najib Abou Hamze, president of Liban Call, the company responsible for the Semme3ni ring-tone subscriptions. After this meeting, we learned from an anonymous source that the decision was being interpreted to apply only to new subscriptions, and anyone who had been subscribed previously and who hadn’t unsubscribed would still be charged.
Where are we now?:
- Both “Semme3ni” and “Rannat” are still active.
- Both services will no longer be added without users’ permission.
- Those who already have these services in their phone are still being charged, but they can now cancel it at no cost.
While this is a step in the right direction, the main issue of users being opted-in to a service without their consent has not been resolved. The Ministry of Telecommunications continues to allow a private company to charge money to subscribers for a service they never requested, despite the fact that it was declared illegal in the decision published by the National News Agency.
We are looking into this discrepancy. In the meantime, if you hear a song when you’re calling a friend, let them know that they are paying for this service and that they can unsubscribe for free by calling Alfa or Touch.