By Shane McGinley
Legal firm chief says users with deal extending beyond Oct 11 can seek refund.
BlackBerry users who have a contract extending beyond the October 11 deadline for the suspension of services will be entitled to a refund, a legal expert told Arabian Business on Monday.
On Sunday, the UAE's Telecommunications Regulatory Authority (TRA) announced that Blackberry Messenger, Blackberry Email and Blackberry Web-browsing services will be suspended from October 11 this year.
BlackBerry users who have signed a contract for services beyond this date will be entitled to cease monthly payments and will be entitled to a refund, according to Tony Maalouli, managing director of ProConsult Advocates and Legal Consultants in Dubai.
“[In the event of the] discontinuation of a service and you have a contract, then the contract will govern the relationship. If you are paying monthly then you will stop making the payments,” said Maalouli.
“For the period where you have used the BlackBerry services then no [you are not entitled to a refund], but the period where you it has been discontinued then yes of course you are entitled to a refund,” he added.
However, he said that telecommunication providers usually did not offer refunds and it was most likely that BlackBerry users would be offered credit for an alternative service.
“Usually they don’t give any cash refund they will give a credit and will transfer it to another service,” he said.
According to the ConsumerRights.ae government website, the UAE Consumer Code of Rights states that “consumers have rights to remedies in the case that there are problems with goods or services provided… [and] having services supplied again or refund its value if cannot be done again.”
The website also states that “services providers have to guarantee service quality for a period of time. If services are not carried out with due care, the service must be provided again for free or refunded.”
The Consumer Code of Rights was issued under UAE Federal Law (24) 2006 by the Ministry of Economy.
In Dubai, the Department of Economic Development's (DED) Commercial Control and Consumer Protection Division has been charged with the responsibility to ensure that consumers and retailers alike comply with the Consumer Code of Rights, understand their responsibilities and, where resolution is sought, facilitate this process between retailers and consumers.
On Sunday, electronics retailers in the UAE were told to stop activating new BlackBerry subscriptions following the TRA’s announcement.
UAE operators Etisalat and du issued statements confirming that they were looking to deliver alternative solutions to BlackBerry customers who face being unable to use services providing email, web browsing, instant messaging and social networking.
“The indications from both du and Etisalat are that they will communicate something in the next few days as an alternative. Till then we need to sit and wait as we await news from them,” Ashish Panjabi, chief operating officer at Jacky’s Electronics, which operators twelve stores in the UAE, told Arabian Business.
“For the time being, we’ve been asked to stop activating new subscriptions and all customers are being re-directed to the respective business centres of both companies at their request,” he added.For all the latest UAE news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
By jingo, 187,000 BlackBerry devices were sold in the Emirates last year, according to AB's Shane McGinley, plus this year's crop, that's a mega rebate looming even to the most rudimentary of mathematics graduates. One assumes that if Tony Maalouli, managing director of ProConsult Advocates and Legal Consultants in Dubai is correct in his conclusion that Tel-Co's have to by law put hands in their pockets that amounts to a fairly large impairment on the balance sheet. Compensation for unuseable devices, broken contracts and material loss due to now unworkable mobile data strategies adopted by large enterprises is a remarkable package as a credit toward alternative services. Small claims cases at DIFC will rocket added to real estate claims that could result in legal administration costs bill of some substance to add to credits. Seems like a swift response as to how the inevitable credit payments will be structured otherwise a torrent of ill feeling may ensue, another credit committee in the offing perchance? Transparency is the best defensive PR as in, 'We understand that this creates an additional commercial problem for individuals and firms alike but we are prepared to compensate as follows ----'. As a policy shift must impact the Telco share prices. A conundrum with ballooning impact. A cursory volume count of AB readers comments implies that that this issue may not be treated with a light coat of gloss paint.
Come on, we all know what will happen. If either Du or Etisalat do decide in their infinite generosity to refund customers who've lost out because of this ruling, no doubt the refund process will be some Byzantine nightmare involving: -Supplying passport, residency visa, credit card number, tenancy contract, no objection letter from your employer - National ID card - 3 months worth of bank statements - Permission slip from your mum - Returning every single piece of packaging that came with your Blackberry in the first place - Visiting 3 different telco offices, including at least one trip to Sharjah or Fujairah Then - and only if ALL of these steps have been fufilled exactly - you will then have to wait 3 months, pay a 'processing fee' and then your refund will come in the form of some cash off an iPhone with a 300-month contract and no data plan, or it'll involve you having to drive to some remote office in Al Gharbia to collect a cheque which can then only be paid into one specific bank branch in Al Ain between the hours of 12pm and 2pm on a Tuesday. Whereupon the bank will refuse to honour the cheque because it doesn't have the new serial numbers on it. You read it here first!