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Consumer Tips

We continuously strive to provide relevant, accurate and timely information on the communications sector and related products and services. We are also committed to dealing effectively with services providers in the event that they breach their legal obligations, addressing consumer queries and liaising with service providers to resolve consumer complaints in the shortest time possible. 
Meanwhile, as a consumer of communication services, we encourage you to inform yourself about your rights and obligations as a consumer as well as about what do to before selecting a service provider or service plan by reading the following section.
Choosing a Provider or Service Plan
Factors to consider before selecting an electronic communications service
Before selecting a service provider and/or taking up an offer, it, is important to consider what is most important to you, whether it is the cost, quality of service, duration of contract, customer care services, billing arrangements or any other factor. Consider your particular usage patterns - how often and at what time of the day you intend to use the service. The following tips will help you identify the service provider and/or offer that best matches your individual needs.
  1. Shop around and compare the offers of the various service providers. For instance, if the level of customer care service is important to you, call the different service providers to enquire about the service you need. Such communications with customer care personnel will provide you with an insight into the level of customer service provided by the service providers.
  1. Check any testimonials and promotional material such as discussion programmes, adverts, leaflets and so on. Do not base your choice solely on information provided from such sources. This information might not be fully comprehensive and if you base your decision solely on such information, there may be important Ts and Cs which you may not be aware of.
  1. Access the online interactive tariff portal. This website provides assistance in selecting the most suitable tariff plan for your electronic communications needs by comparing prices of the various services from the different providers, based on the way you use these services.
  1. Review the MCA's communication services section to find out what types of electronic communications services are offered in Malta.
Make sure that you are well informed about the following:
    • FULL COST. This may include the rental fee, monthly payment, repair costs, tariffs, etc;

    • COSTS OF CUSTOMER PREMISES EQUIPMENT (CPE), provided by the service provider. It is important to check whether such CPE is offered on lease and whether a deposit is required. If a deposit is applicable, check whether such deposit is refunded when the CPE is returned upon disconnection. Check also any charges that may apply if the CPE is found damaged when returned;

    • BILLING ARRANGEMENTS. You should know whether the service is being offered as a pre-paid or as a post-paid service;

    • PAYMENT OPTIONS available. There may be more than one way for you to pay your bills, for instance by visiting an outlet, paying online, through direct debit, etc. You may wish to check whether any discounts are given should you wish to choose a particular payment option;

    • PAYMENT CONDITIONS such as penalties imposed if you do not pay your bill on time. You should check whether the service provider offers any discounts should you pay before the due date;

    • VIEWING OF BILLS. Check whether the bill is received by post or whether it can be accessed online or both;

    • COST CONTROL FACILITIES. Check whether the service provider has any facilities to allow you to monitor how much you spend on the telephony and internet services. Such mechanisms may be offered through SMS and/or online;

    • MINIMUM DURATION of the contract. Some contracts include a minimum period of service, for example, two years. In the event that you wish to terminate your contract before this period ends, you may incur a penalty;

    • PENALTIES that may apply should you wish to terminate the contract before any contractual period is over, as indicated above;

    • TERMINATION PROCEDURE Make sure you are aware of the disconnection procedure when terminating your service. Service providers may require a notification in writing and a copy of your ID card. Furthermore, you may wish to check whether you need to inform the service provider beforehand. Note that, more often than not, you will still be billed for the service during this notification period. MCA’s FAQs section provides additional information about termination of service;

    • INSTALLATION PROCEDURE. This may include an installation charge and maximum time for installation. Find out what steps you can take if the operator does not follow the installation process;

    • MAXIMUM REPAIR TIME FOR FAULTS. Check the maximum repair time to restore services should the service develop a fault;

    • TYPES OF MAINTENANCE SERVICES. Check what maintenance services are provided by the service provider. You may also wish to check if such services are offered free of charge or against payment;

    • LIMITATIONS in terms of service coverage, roaming agreements or any other conditions which may affect your ability to use the service;

    • COMPENSATION OR OTHER FORMS OF REDRESS that apply if the service provider does not achieve the quality of service levels stipulated in the contract; and

  • COMPLAINT AND ENQUIRY HANDLING PROCEDURE. Find out what you would need to do if you wish to complain or enquire about the service. Also, find out how long the service provider takes to answer enquiries and complaints
Factors to consider before selecting a telephony service (mobile/fixed)
The following are some points you should be aware of:
    • The telephony service can be purchased in the following two formats:
        • Pre-paid

          Payment for such services is done by various means including purchasing credit in the form of top-up cards through outlets, by debit or credit card via the service providers' web site, through ATM top-up services, auto-top-up from your bank account or through other methods offered by the service provider. Top-up cards may have a specific time-window. Time-windows vary according to the value of the top-up card; that is: different periods apply for a €5 and €20 top-up card. This may also vary from one service provider to another and may change over time. The pre-paid system helps you maintain control over the amount you spend on telephony services.
          In case of fixed telephony, service providers may establish a minimum amount that you have to spend over a period of time (for example each year).
          In case of mobile telephony, check whether you have to make a chargeable event to keep the line active, and if yes, how often you will need to call or send an SMS to make sure that you are not disconnected.

      • Post-paid

        A post-paid service requires that a contract is signed between you and your service provider during which you will be billed for the services you use. Bills are usually issued every one or two months.

    • Based on your usage patterns, before subscribing to a telephony service you may wish to consider the following factors:
      • the type of calls you make most frequently: whether local or international and whether to fixed lines or to mobile lines;
      • how often you call;
      • the average duration of the calls; and
      • at what time of the day you intend making most calls.

    • Consider which service provider the people you call most often are subscribed to. On-net calls may be free or may be charged differently from off-net calls. Off-net calls might be more expensive. In order to find out whether a specific number is registered on the same network as yours or not, you can call and/or send an SMS to the number '180'.

    • Shop around and compare the different call charges. When comparing charges, be mindful of the fact that service providers may adopt any of the following charging methods:
      • per second
      • per minute
      • per pulse/flat rate (for example, if 1 pulse is equal to 5 minutes, your service provider will charge you for a 5 minute call even if your call lasts less than 5 minutes).
      Service providers may sometimes combine the above charging methods with a call set up charge, where you will be charged a fixed amount as soon as you make a call and then charged per second, minute or pulse thereafter. Alternatively, service providers may offer unlimited free talk time combined with a call set up charge.

    • Take note of the various time bands: peak and off-peak bands used by the service provider, if any, as these may differ from one service provider to another.

    • Calls made to numbers starting with the prefix '800 X XXXX', referred to as 'freephone' numbers are not charged if the call originates from a fixed telephony line. However, you may be charged at the rate of a fixed line phone call if your call originates from a mobile phone.

    • Calls made to numbers starting with the prefix "50XX XXXX", "51XX XXXX", and "52XX XXXX" are premium rate numbers. For more information on premium rate numbers you may wish to review MCA's FAQs.

    • If you intend to buy a mobile phone from a service provider, check whether it is network locked or SIM card locked. In both cases, it is important to identify the applicable charges should you decide to unlock the phone. For example, you will need to do this if you decide to change your service provider or SIM card.

    • In the case of mobile telephony services, if you plan to use 3G services, it is important to check whether they are available in the areas where you expect to use them most. It is important to note that you will need a 3G phone/device to make use of the 3G network. In areas where 3G services may not yet be available, your 3G mobile phone will automatically switch to the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM) network given that your service provider offers 2G network.

    • If you wish to use your mobile phone abroad, you should confirm with your service provider that your particular tariff plan allows you to make calls whilst abroad (this is known as international roaming). The service providers' website usually contains information on the roaming charges applicable for post-paid and pre-paid subscribers and what steps you may need to take to enable this service. Note that you can benefit from the 'EUROTARIFF' when travelling in any EU member state. For more information regarding the Eurotariff, you may wish to consult the MCA's FAQs.

  • In the event of a power failure, check whether the fixed telephony service works, and if not, what power back up facilities you will require.
Factors to consider before selecting a television service
The following are some points you should be aware of:
    • Generally the most important characteristic of a TV package is the TV channel line up. This differs from one package to another as well as from one service provider to another. This is subject to commercial negotiations between the service providers, broadcasters and other content providers.

    • In most cases you may purchase add-on services (such as movie and sport packages) over and above your standard TV package. The rates and content differ from one service provider to another.

    • In most cases you may purchase add-on services (such as movie and sport packages) over and above your standard TV package. The rates and content differ from one service provider to another.

    • Service providers offer some TV content/channels in HD format. To view such channels you require a television set that supports HD format as well as an HD set-top box. The subscription fees to HD services differ from one service provider to another.
Factors to consider before selecting an internet service
The following are some points you should be aware of:
    • Consider which type of internet connection is the most appropriate for you depending what you generally use it for, for example:
        • whether you wish to access the internet just from your home or also from other locations in Malta; and

        • what amount of information/data you are likely to download/upload.

      Note that whenever you connect to the Internet you are always downloading information from other sources also connected to the Internet, for example, the content you see on a webpage, downloading of music and films, and so on. On the other hand when, for instance, you are uploading pictures and/or music on the Internet, you are uploading information from your device to other sources connected to the Internet.
      Identifying what type and amount of information/data you are likely to download and upload each month will give you an indication of what type of speeds and limits you will require.

    • Note that when subscribing to a broadband service, the published download and upload speeds are normally the maximum speeds achievable. For further information regarding internet speeds, you may wish to review the Communication Services section. If you wish to check your internet speed, you may visit the Internet Health Monitoring System site.
      Make sure the service you are subscribing to will deliver the speeds that you need in the locality/ies where you will be using the service.

  • Request information on download limits and whether the service provider offers any time bands during which you have unlimited download facilities (this is sometimes referred to as the unmetered download period) – usually at night. It is important to identify what action the service provider will take if you exceed your download limit. Actions may include suspension of service for the remaining billing period or additional charges for the downloading of extra data over and above the set limit.
How can you obtain the above information?
    1. Read and understand ALL the Terms and Conditions (Ts & Cs) attached to the service you are considering subscribing to. It is very important that you read the Ts & Cs carefully before signing a service contract.

    1. You can review the Ts & Cs by accessing the service providers' websites as they are published online. Furthermore, such Ts & Cs are also available at no cost at the service providers' outlets for inspection by prospective subscribers.

  1. Contact operator's customer care services. If there is anything that you feel is not clear in the Ts & Cs, do not hesitate to ask the customer care personnel or sales persons to explain it further.
After selecting a service provider and/or taking up an offer
When you subscribe to an electronic communications service, make sure that you:
Always keep a copy of your contract, receipts, invoices and any formal communications exchanged with your service provider. If you conclude your contract online, print or save a copy;
    1. Ensure that the goods and/or services that are delivered/provided conform to the description and meet the specifications set out in your contract; and

    1. When communicating with the service provider, take note of who you speak to, record the date, time and the main outcome of your communication.