NEW DELHI: About 35% of Indians using smartphones have experienced increased data billing due to automatic buffering of video advertisements while surfing a website or using a mobile application, a survey conducted by nanu, a mobile VoIP (voice over Internet Protocol) application, shows.
The survey, conducted for three days in June in over 23 states covering 14,154 smartphone users, showed 89% of them were reluctant to click on video advertisements.
Surprisingly, the results show that about 42% of Indians have no knowledge of increased data consumption due to these “automatic” video ads.
The lack of awareness is evident as only 10% of them have installed ad-blocking software on their phones. The matter has already been brought to the telecom regulator’s notice.
An official from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said the authority is aware of automatic video buffering and content downloading as a cause of concern for smartphone users.
“Consumers should not be paying for data consumed involuntarily. We are looking into the issue as the downside is you end up consuming data due to in voluntary download. We will take steps to resolve the issue,” the official said, requesting anonymity.
The telecom regulator has been taking a number of proactive measures for consumer protection lately, such as proposing a penalty for call drops, and has sought powers to penalise telecom operators for non-compliance.
“With mobile advertising growing exponentially, there is an increasing possibility of consumers facing hidden data charges without their knowledge. We are glad that Trai has made meaningful efforts in this direction and we are hopeful that the operators will join this movement to safeguard consumers’ interest,” said Martin Nygate, chief executive of nanu.
An important finding of the survey is that the impact sought to be achieved by advertisers using such a mechanism will remain “ineffective” in building a healthy relationship between a brand and a consumer due to “lack of transparency” in data consumption.
Also, the increased charges paid by the consumer should actually be borne by advertisers.
According to Rajiv Dingra, founder and chief executive of digital and social media agency, WatConsult, digital advertisements are a billion-dollar industry, out of which digital video ads comprise close to 20%, with apps, including You Tube and Facebook, being the major players. “I don’t see much impact of a regulation on Facebook because the autoplay function is on auto mute and therefore not counted as a view. Even if there is an impact, it will be short-term and not catastrophic.”