So Zero Mobile Sent Me A Love Letter…

IMAGE: Taken from Zero Mobile Website.

Alright folks. I am here just wanting to highlight that Zero Mobile has sent a letter from ‘Legal Compliance’ (no name, nobody that wants to take responsibility for a official letter of demand) for me to take out the previous article about their services.

For the sake of transparency I will reproduce the email and the attached document for everyone to read. I will then pen my reply as ‘asked’ in the email at the end of this post. I think I also reserve the right to answer to their points too again at the end of both letters. Again, what I wrote since the start of this blog is my personal opinion. If it is a sponsored, there will be disclaimers but for sake of clarity, again, whatever expressed is my opinion.

Update 15 March 2018 11.35am: The CEO of Zero Mobile has reached out to me this morning at 0846hrs and will reproduce the whole the whole email for everyone to read and understand the situation better at the end of the post. I will also put my reply up. Let it be known clearly I am not here to gloat. Everyone has their points of view and perspective and I put this here so everyone can put their limited energy in the right places and be better.

Update 16 March 2018 4.44pm: My thoughts after the teleconversation this morning.


This is the Email sent to me:

Dear Winston Wong

We are writing with regard to your online article about Zero Mobile dated 13 March 2018, titled “”Is Zero Mobile Plans too good to be true?” As you are aware, it can be accessed from the link below. 

<I have removed the link since the post is not up, as per demand in the email>

We note that you attempted in your post to analyse a number of our documents, namely, our terms and conditions and critical information summaries. As you will note from the attached document, the information contained within your post is inaccurate and likely to be defamatory in nature. 

We request that you take immediate steps to remove your article by 3pm on Thursday, 15 March 2018, failing which we will commence proceedings against you with no further notice.  

 

At this time, we also seek your cooperation with the following questions:

  1. Were you commissioned, hired or paid by any third party to write and publish this article?
  2. If yes, who is/are the third party(ies) involved?
    3. Did any third party provide you any assistance with writing the content or conducting the analysis you published in the article?
    4. If yes, who is/are the third party(ies) involved?
    5. Did you publish this article in your position as a digital news platform or in your capacity as a personal blogger? 
    6. Is there a reason you did not seek any comments or clarifications from us before publishing your analysis?

We have commenced an investigation into this matter as we have reason to believe that, based on the information available to us, that you may be engaging in activity which may result in causing undue damage to our business and reputation in concert with others. Your conduct is likely to result in lowering consumer confidence against our services, without just or reasonable cause.  

The investigation may result in notifying any relevant authorities in Singapore of our findings, including any personal involvement that you may have in the above mentioned activities. Based on the outcome of our investigation, we reserve the right to commence legal proceedings against you personally and any other parties that may be involved. We recommend that you obtain independent legal advice.

For any clarifications please email compliance@zeromobile.com.sg

Thank you.

Legal Compliance | Zero SG

 


Here is the attached letter with the email sent to me:

14th March 2018

Notice of Intention to Commence Legal Proceedings

Re: Article “IS ZERO MOBILE UNLIMITED PLANS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?”

Dear Wilson Wong

We write to you in response to an article you published on your website on 13th March 2018, titled “IS ZERO MOBILE UNLIMITED PLANS TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE?” We note that it is currently accessible online at <removed since the link is not active anymore as per letter of demand>.

We have reviewed the comments that you have published about Zero Mobile Pte Ltd and our preliminary analysis indicates that your writing is either recklessly, negligently or intentionally; misleading and inaccurate.

Whilst there are numerous inaccurate assumptions and conclusions in your article, we would like to specifically highlight your comments relating to our compliance with IMDA’s Quality of Service Standards

(QoS).
(1) IMDA QoS
You note clause 5(1)(v) of our Terms of Service in your analysis and yet ignore the second part of the term, stated in clause 5(1)(vi) which clearly states that Zero Mobile QoS non-compliance is limited to:
a. Service activation;
b. Resolution of disputes;
c. Resolution of any technical issues;
d. Cancellation of services;
e. Communication between You and Us in general.

You, wilfully or negligently, misinterpret this information and present to it to your audience as Zero Mobile does not comply with IMDA QoS Standards for 3G and 4G usage and will reduce their service speed to “2G” levels. We would like to point out that IMDA’s QoS Standards relating to 3G and 4G usage only apply to facilities based operators that own or operate mobile phone towers. As a virtual provider, Zero Mobile has no control, ability or requirement to meet those standards. The reference in our terms clearly relates to the customer service standards.

We further note that there was no attempt from you to seek any clarification from us to understand any of our terms and conditions better.

In our view, your analysis and comments are defamatory, inflammatory, inaccurate and misleading with a direct result of reducing consumer confidence in our services. As such, they are likely to cause irreparable damage to our brand and our company.

(2) Inflammatory statements contained within such
a. You specifically call our rewards program a scam;
b. You state that we are “literally smacking the regulator (IMDA) across its face, without
an understanding of the QoS standards actually are;”
c. You accuse us of a cover up by stating “If that is not an attempt at cover-up I wonder
what is,” without an understanding of the QoS standards actually are.”

You are hereby given notice to take down the offending article by 3pm on Thursday, 15th March 2018 Singapore time and notify us of the same via return email.

If you fail to do this, we intend to issue legal proceeding seeking an interim injunction to take down the offending article immediately and seek further damages. This may result in significant costs to you.

Please note that the penalties, both civil and criminal forms of defamation under Singapore law are
significant.

We suggest that you seek independent legal advice without delay.

Zero SG
Legal Compliance

 


Part 1.

Since I give Zero Mobile Singapore their super fair share of their reply because of my past article, I hope those who read will have an idea what they are saying. I will pen my reply on the questions posed to me in their email. After that I will also answer both points too as stated in the attached mail.

  1. Were you commissioned, hired or paid by any third party to write and publish this article? Answer: No. In all sense of the word “No”.
  2. If yes, who is/are the third party(ies) involved? Answer: No. In all sense of the word “No”.
  3. Did any third party provide you any assistance with writing the content or conducting the analysis you published in the article? Answer: No. In all sense of the word “No”.
  4. If yes, who is/are the third party(ies) involved? Answer: No. In all sense of the word “No”.
  5. Did you publish this article in your position as a digital news platform or in your capacity as a personal blogger? Answer: Is a blog. Period. And since it is a blog, I can write what I think of a product or service or my experience. And no, I didn’t earn any cents from writing my thoughts. If I have access to some products and services, I write my opinions that’s all.
  6. Is there a reason you did not seek any comments or clarifications from us before publishing your analysis? Answer: Yes. Would ALL your customers read your terms and conditions and question you? And would you answer it ALL the time? I use my right as a consumer to read all the information that you have on-line and report on my interpretation from my reading of the information. If the information is clear, why would there be a need to seek any comments or clarifications? In this case, I am satisfied that what I read was clear and didn’t need any more clarifications.

Since I have removed the previous article I will again take their terms and conditions and explain my interpretation of the said clauses.

“5  v.          You understand, accept and agree that although We will take all due care to provide You with the best service possible, the Quality of Service We provide to You may be of a lower standard than that is mandated by the relevant regulatory body in Singapore. We expressly state to You, and You accept, that We do not comply with IMDA’s minimum quality of service standards; and

5   vi.          Insofar as the Quality of Service standard exists, You understand, accept and agree that the lower standard may result in longer waiting times or lengthier processes relating to:

a.      Service activation;

b.      Resolution of disputes;

c.      Resolution of any technical issues;

d.      Cancellation of services;

e.      Communication between You and Us in general.”

My Interpretation:

A Quality of Service Standard (as the email suggests I don’t know a thing as a ex-CCNA and Master in Applied IT Graduate and to lay a bit more credence, a graduate in Quality Management as well) is basically refer to the capability in which a network is able to provide the required connection speed as stipulated by a regulatory body in which this case is the IMDA of Singapore.

In short and in layman terms, it is the network speed we are talking here. And if we do a quick google search on the term ‘QoS’, the definition is clear. For the benefit of those who are not so techie, here is the definition by CISCO, the grand daddy device providers of networking.

“Achieving the required Quality of Service (QoS) by managing the delay, delay variation (jitter), bandwidth, and packet loss parameters on a network becomes the secret to a successful end-to-end business solution. Thus, QoS is the set of techniques to manage network resources.” (link).

So the QoS is commonly understood as the quality of the service rendered by the network and in this case, the connection between my smartphone and the network run by SingTel using Zero Mobile (ZM). What the clause 5 v. is saying, or how I interpret it, is that ZM will provide the best service that they can and might be lower than what is required by IMDA. And this is further confirmed that ZM wants the person who subscribe to their service, to accept that ZM does not follow IMDA minimum QoS standards.

The following clause 5 vi. says nothing of the networking speed or standards but to paraphrase,

“if there is a slower speed, it will affect the time needed for service activation, dispute resolution, technical issues resolution, service cancellation and any communication between customer and ZM.”

I think that is very clear and hence nothing to do with the QoS as per technical understanding of that term but more of how the affected mobile connection is not able to render some services by ZM properly.

So in the attached mail I highlight this point “As a virtual provider, Zero Mobile has no control, ability or requirement to meet those standards.”

If ZM say in their own clause “We expressly state to You, and You accept, that We do not comply with IMDA’s minimum quality of service standards;”  with the additional words I highlighted above, what does that say to me as a potential customer? I let the reader make their own conclusion.

Hence putting this clause up, with clause 5 vi notwithstanding, is not helping ZM at all. So as a ‘potential’ customer, why would I not be concerned that I pay a fee but not getting any services just because ZM’s service provider has put an exit clause on their responsibilities?

Part 2.

(2) Inflammatory statements contained within such
a. You specifically call our rewards program a scam;
b. You state that we are “literally smacking the regulator (IMDA) across its face, without
an understanding of the QoS standards actually are;”
c. You accuse us of a cover up by stating “If that is not an attempt at cover-up I wonder
what is,” without an understanding of the QoS standards actually are.”

My replies

a. If a reward program for its customers is taken away just because the customers switched off their rewards program via the app doesn’t mean whatever points or credits they earned before they switched it off is off the table. Maybe the word ‘scam’ is a tad strong but whatever is due to the customer, should stay with the customer even if they have reasons not to engage in the rewards program. PERIOD.

b. Well. I have answered previously about QoS. If you don’t follow what IMDA stipulates as minimum standards, then why operate in Singapore? Just because you have no power to maintain that service doesn’t make it right to allow the customers to accept non-compliance.  That I think is the minimum a customer of ZM would expect to put people at ease about their service and to fight for them if they don’t get service from SingTel. Is that expectation fair?

c. Let’s say I do not understand QoS, can ZM state very clearly in absolute terms, what is the upper limit of their Fair Usage Policy? Let’s say there is no cover up, then why didn’t the Critical Information Page  say anything about the upper limit of said Fair Usage since it is ‘Critical Information’? How about not being able to tether or that only an approved device is able to access the service? Isn’t that also critical information too?

To clear the impression that ZM is hiding something, then it is only fair that they put up the most important information out there instead of hiding in the terms and conditions.

 


Update: CEO of Zero Mobile Reaching Out

Date: 15 March 0846hrs

The CEO of Zero Mobile Mr Glenn Mohammed, has reached out to me with his email this morning and I definitely welcome a positive engagement. I will attached his email here and also my reply and will allow the readers to draw their own conclusions after reading it.

 

Hi Wilson, 

I have read your post about our services in Singapore with interest. I am of the view that you raise some valid points, especially with the language and clarity around of some of our terms.

Our aim is to ultimately provide competitive pricing and value to our customers but as a start-up we face significant push back in our attempts to do so. Based on the information provided to me, I am of the view that your interest is here customer advocacy. Therefore, it is important for us to understand your perspective as a consumer and improve on what we are doing based on feedback from individuals like yourself. As such, I would like to have a 15-minute discussion with you directly over the phone so I can understand your views and explain ours in a little more detail to you. 

I am available tomorrow morning at 9:30am. If you are happy to have a chat, I will give you a call on your mobile. Please confirm your contact number is 9150 2799. 

Thank you for your time. 

Glenn Mohammed | CEO

Zero Mobile Singapore

 

My reply as below on 15 March 1114hrs

Hi Glenn,

First of all thank you for your letter. 
You are right that I am advocating fair consumer treatment here and with that, I appreciate the leader of the organization to come out and be clear about what Zero Mobile stands for.
I am not here to destroy anyone’s dreams or businesses but I certainly have some reservations if building a dream affects negatively the community in which the business is operating in. I think that is what you are trying to avoid as well.
For one I am totally elated that there are better no-contract plans for people to choose from and that’s a good start for consumers. I have seen the drastic changes, mostly negative, to the telco scene in the last 2 decades and I definitely will want a vibrant market to thrive. It is startups like yourself that makes the incumbents sit up by challenging the status quo.
When a consumer such as myself highlighted points of contention, it is always in Zero Mobile interests to look into them and ask why we are so negative. 
To reply back with an unfriendly letter is shooting the messenger and that helps no one and put all the energy into all the wrong things.
On the flip side, if something positive like this email comes along it shows a good side that I also want to share to others as well!
There are a few things I did mention and is for your team’s consideration to make it clearer to your would-be customers and in one point, to take up the mantle to defend your customers.
I think that is what ultimately Zero Mobile want to be seen doing and gain customers as a result.
I really hope this email will soothe everyone’s nerves.
Again, this correspondence just shows me Zero Mobile is starting to listen and that is always a good thing. 
Let me do one better because of problems associated with non-visual communication, I think a quick face to face would be better, one to one. If that’s not possible then a phone call is okay but I think with the things escalating to such a point, I would prefer the former. Yes you can catch me at 91502799.
Regards

 


Update 16 March 2018 4.44pm:

For friends who are interested in the Zero Mobile Saga, I have a talk with the CEO this morning. All are clear and definitely, they have their reasons, be it real or imagined, to do what they think is best.

I won’t share in detail what we talked in the teleconversation because a lot are said “off-the-record”.

I can say in some ways, the reading of the market is a bit wrong and with Singaporeans in their group, I think they can do better.

The foundation of any business services and dealings is to communicate the intention clearly and most of the time, it is the way the communication is handled that speaks of the company.

Once that is done properly, then the fear of being misunderstood and being used to undermine the business will be minimised.

This quote comes to mind

“Your biggest enemy is not someone lurking in the shadows, waiting for you to slip up. Your biggest enemy is you and facing this enemy can be really tough.”

Right now, I understand they will look through their terms and conditions and on my behest, hopefully, they will call for a proper press conference to straighten these stuff out (not about my legal letter but on their business generally).

On the whole, a positive exchange, and hopefully ZM comes out stronger and give the big telcos a run for their money (with SingTel having the least sting).

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