ANACOM has approved a final decision on the minimum level of detail and information to be included in bills which electronic communications operators are required to make available to subscribers requesting detailed billing, regardless of how the bill is provided. As such, bills must include the following information: the date on which the contract lock-in period ends, and specification of the costs incurred by the customer if they decide to terminate the contract on the issue date of the bill.
Operators will also be required to include information in bills about the option available to consumers if they decide to dispute the billed amounts, indicating how disputes can be filed and the deadlines applicable, making it clear to customers that the service will not be suspended in cases where values are the object of a written complaint (based on the inexistence or non-enforceability of the debt).
Bills must also state that customers have the option of submitting a complaint through the complaints book, indicating the website where the electronic complaints book is available.
The main objective of these new requirements is to make information easier to understand and more transparent, so that consumers can check the benefits they are being billed for and make informed decisions to safeguard their rights and interests. The defined level of detail also makes it possible for customers to follow the expenses associated with the bundles of services in a detailed and continuous manner, especially when there is additional consumption.
ANACOM's decision was approved following a public consultation which saw participation from a significant number of social and business stakeholders. The proposed measures gained clear support from Direção Geral do Consumidor (Directorate General for the Consumer) and DECO, but disagreement from operators. ANACOM saw fit to retain the essential part of the measures, while accepting some of the suggestions put by operators, seeing clear justification as to the relevance of measures aimed at improving the information provided to customers and at ensuring higher levels of customer satisfaction; this must remain a priority for every company. By contributing to better and more complete information, these measures, not only contribute to better protection of consumer rights, but also promote greater competition based on fair and transparent practices.
The decision also takes into account the fact that billing and service cancellation are the reasons which generate a greater number of complaints, with significant increases reported in the last year. It is considered that, by establishing a detailed specification of the various items that must be included in detailed bills which providers will have to make available, this decision will facilitate understanding of the content of these bills by subscribers of electronic communications services.
Bills issued six months from the date of approval of ANACOM's decision must comply with these rules.
ANACOM recommends that, from the entry into force of this measure, consumers ensure that their bills, which must be made available free of charge, include the level of information and detail now defined. This does not mean that operators are prevented, whether on their own initiative or at the express request of customers, from issuing or sending out bills with a level of detail and information beyond that defined by ANACOM, under terms agreed with their customers. Likewise, nothing prevents subscribers who so wish from exercising their right to receive invoices without detail as set out in legislation on the processing of personal data and protection of privacy.
ANACOM supports incentives for digital billing but considers that the rights of the most vulnerable population groups must remain protected
In accordance with this Decision and in accordance with the law, companies must ensure that bills are issued and sent to subscribers free of charge regardless of the medium and means used for that purpose.
This decision does not conflict with promoting the take-up of electronic bills, which can of course be encouraged by companies. taking into account the recognised advantages of electronic billing. However, ANACOM is concerned that the progressive shift to digital communications does not leave subscribers who are not yet able to make the switch unprotected, since this would lead to increased isolation of more vulnerable population groups, such as, for example citizens without access to the Internet or with difficulties in Internet use – these groups also tend to be citizens with lower levels of education and/or citizens on lower incomes.
ANACOM considers the process of digital transformation and the obvious benefits for society as a whole, due to a reduction in the use of paper, to be of great importance, but argues that its implementation should not be detrimental to users of essential public services with continuous provision - electronic communications services - who wish to continue receiving bills on paper, in particular because they do not have a computer or access to the Internet.
In fact, there is no obstacle, as in other economic sectors such as energy, to encouraging subscribers to switch from traditional paper bills to an electronic format by granting benefits to those who decide to take this option. The right and freedom of choice must belong to the customer, who should likewise not be penalised for choosing to receive bills on paper, especially since the legal framework governing this matter, Código do IVA (VAT Code), continues to make the valid issuing of electronic invoices subject to their acceptance by the recipient.
Minimum level of detail and information to be included in bills, whenever the items in question apply:
Subscriber identification information and billing period
- Customer number or equivalent identifier
- Commercial name(s) of the billed service(s)
- Billing period
Items providing for verification and control, based on up-to-date information, of the costs incurred as a result of contracted services and communications
- The total amount of the bill
- The price of installation and activation of the service(s)
- The price of acquisition or rental of equipment requested upon contracting or requested after provision of the service(s) has commenced, indicating the corresponding billed unit(s)
- The amount of the subscription charge (monthly charge or charge for the reference period that serves as the basis for the billing), indicating the service(s) covered
- The amount charged for the service(s) and other additional charge(s) not included in the subscription charge (monthly charge or charge for the reference period that serves as the basis for the billing), identifying corresponding categories and quantities billed.
- The value charged for additional communications (calls and messages, including to non-geographic numbers, Internet traffic, and others) not included in the subscription charge (monthly charge or charge for the reference period that serves as the basis for the billing), identifying the corresponding categories and, where applicable, quantities billed
- The value of any discounts applied
- Billing adjustments, as well as subscriber debits and credits, duly itemised and explained, to be indicated separately, whenever applicable
- The value of any account top-ups made by the subscriber and items consumed, balances carried forward from previous billing periods and balances existing at the end of the billing period which may still be carried over to the next period
Information on the length of time costs will apply where the contract has an associated lock-in period
- The expiry date of the lock-in period
Information on charges which would be due, as on the date of issue of the bill, as a result of the subscriber deciding to terminate the contract before the end of the lock-in period
- Information on charges due, as on the date of issue of the bill, due in the event of termination of the contract on initiative of the subscriber before the end of the lock-in period
Information on the payment terms applicable to the bill and the lime limit for payment, and in case of query or disagreement as to the amount payable, how the customer can contact the service provider and exercise their right to complain or contest the bill
- Customer service contact numbers
- The payment deadline
- The payment methods allowed
- Reference to the option of the subscriber to contest the billed amounts, the period allowed for this purpose, and the means by which subscribers can file their dispute with the company providing the service(s). It must be made clear to customers that the service will not be suspended in cases where billed values are the object of a written complaint (based on the inexistence or non-enforceability of the debt).
- Reference to the option of the subscriber to exercise their right of complaint using complaint books - companies can fulfil this obligation by indicating the website where the complaint book is available in electronic format.
- Approval of the definition of the minimum level of detail and information in bills to be provided to subscribers without charge https://www.anacom.pt/render.jsp?contentId=1459807
- Consultation regarding the definition of the minimum level of information on invoices to be guaranteed to subscribers free of charge https://www.anacom.pt/render.jsp?contentId=1454462