Citizens' Issues
Getting the most of your mobile phone plans

 

Every which way, as India heads rapidly into what can be defined as an Age of Austerity, every rupee saved will be a rupee earned was never truer now than before. Bringing down small expenses starts with you, and the communication bill is one element here

When was the last time you compared your mobile phone plans, prepaid or postpaid, with other plans from the same or other service providers, to see if you could achieve lower rates?

If you thought that the putting this as a query to customer care at your telecom company was going to get you a solution, then forget it, the call centres are trained to deflect this. Getting on the website or visiting a dealer outlet is a better idea.

In this correspondent's case, a review of plans about two years ago and then once more a few days ago brought about a saving of around 40% each time. Of course, each time this took a lot of research, and that can get your head spinning. But there are easier ways.

Here’s how to do it:-

  1. Ask for details of your present plan from customer care. If it is in the “not available any more” list, then chances are that it was either too expensive to survive or it is such an amazingly low-cost plan that you have nothing to worry.
  2. Call a competing telecom service and ask them to guide you on competing plans. They will ask for copies of your old bills and guide you accordingly. After this, call your existing telecom service and ask for information on how to migrate, and when they ask you why—give them the competing rate plan you are getting and watch them match it.
  3. Check out the MTNL/BSNL websites for rate plans in your areas, or pay a visit to their customer service offices—they are indeed very helpful and can be compared to the Mother Dairy of vegetable shopping in terms of reliability and cost. Take your existing bills along. They also have interesting options combining land lines, mobile phones and broadband/internet/GPRS as well as true third generation (3G).

Every which way, as India heads rapidly into what can be defined as an Age of Austerity, every rupee saved will be a rupee earned was never truer now than before. Bringing down small expenses starts with you, and the communication bill is one element here. Good luck!!

 

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Parliamentary panel rejects govt proposal to hike FDI cap in insurance

The Standing Committee on Finance in its report on the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008, said the proposal to increase the FDI cap to 49% in insurance companies seems to have been decided upon “without any sound and objective analysis of the status of the insurance sector following liberalisation”

New Delhi: In an another instance which may stall reforms, a Parliament panel has rejected the government proposal to hike the foreign direct investment (FDI) cap in the insurance sector to 49%, saying this may not have the desired effect and could expose the economy to global vulnerability, reports PTI.

The Standing Committee on Finance in its report on the Insurance Laws (Amendment) Bill, 2008, said the proposal to increase the FDI cap to 49% in insurance companies seems to have been decided upon “without any sound and objective analysis of the status of the insurance sector following liberalisation”.

“The committee feel the suggested policy stance of enabling a greater role for foreign capital in the insurance sector, may not necessarily have the desired impact...” the report, tabled in Lok Sabha, said.

The panel, headed by senior BJP leader Yashwant Sinha, however, agreed with the need to bring in comprehensive changes in the archaic laws governing the insurance sector.

“Increased role of foreign capital may lead to the possibility of exposing the economy to the vulnerabilities of the global market... flight of capital outside the country and also endangering the interest of the policy holders,” it said.

It further said that in view of the fact that the finance ministry could not convincingly justify the proposal, the committee considers that any further hike in FDI cap in the present global economic scenario, may not be in the interest of the Indian insurance industry.

It noted that the common man too would not stand to gain through insurance, particularly as a means of social security.

The Bill was introduced in the Rajya Sabha in December 2008 with an aim to bring improvement and revision of laws relating to insurance business in the changed scenario of private participation. It was referred to the Standing Committee.

Last month, the government had to shelve its plan to allow 51% FDI in the multi-brand retail amid stiff opposition from different parties, including some of its own allies.

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Parliamentary panel proposes voting right cap of 26% in private banks

The Parliamentary Standing on Finance in its report on the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill 2011 tabled in the Lok Sabha suggested the RBI must ensure that regulatory mechanism is adequate and strictly complied with to prevent any misuse of the provision of increasing the limit

New Delhi: A parliamentary panel today recommended raising voting rights of investors in the private sector banks but with a cap of 26% with a view to maintaining a balance between economic control and promoting corporate democracy, reports PTI.

The Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill 2011, introduced in the Lok Sabha in March this year, had proposed providing voting rights to investors commensurate with their shareholding in the private sector banks.

At present, the voting right is capped at 10%.

“The (finance) ministry may consider increasing the limit only to 26% in order to keep a balance between conflicting factors underpinning the decision, namely concentration of economic power/control and promotion of corporate democracy,” said the Parliamentary Standing on Finance headed by BJP leader Yashwant Sinha.

The committee in its report on the Banking Laws (Amendment) Bill 2011 tabled in the Lok Sabha suggested the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) must ensure that regulatory mechanism is adequate and strictly complied with to prevent any misuse of the provision of increasing the limit.

It recommended that RBI, being the nodal agency in the banking sector, should conduct due diligence of “fit and proper persons/entities...”

The apex bank should also take sufficient safeguards while stipulating conditions as to credentials, source of funds, track record, financial inclusion, before granting approvals under this clause, it said.

The committee, in its report, also asked the government to consider merits of issuing non-voting shares as an avenue to expand the capital base of banks without allowing concentration of management control in a few hands and which would also enable the banks to grow faster.

The panel, however, has supported the government’s proposal to keep bank mergers outside the purview of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) temporarily but with certain caveats.

While it supports the government's proposal to keep bank mergers outside CCI’s purview, it recommended that this exception should be considered as a special case.

It suggested an expedient measure be revisited in “due course in the light of experience gained by” regulators RBI and CCI.

The government had tabled the Bill in Parliament during the Budget Session, after which it was referred to the committee.

While presenting the report, the committee, however, clarified that the report does not convey its views on mergers and acquisition policy in banking sector as such, saying that the issue merits a separate discourse.

The standing committee also suggested the proposed Depositor Education and Awareness Fund as provided in the Bill should be created without compromising the rights and claims of depositors or their legal heirs who should be able to secure their claims without difficulty.

The panel said legal heirs of depositors should be informed before transfer of funds to the Depositor Education Protection Fund.

According to it, even after the transfer to the fund, the bank would be liable to repay with interest justified claims of depositors within a period of one month of claim.

The report suggested that the RBI should be mandated to refund the claimed amount under the fund immediately on demand from the concerned bank.

It added the government may also consider incorporating a similar provision for deciding the fate of unclaimed articles under safe custody of the banking company or lying in the lockers which have not been operated for more than a certain period of time.

The standing committee said that while it broadly endorses proposals contained in the Bill, recent failures of some major private banks internationally and lessons from that episode should not be lost sight of while formulating the new policy on banking licences.

It said that stability of the banking system should be preserved while nurturing growth and development of the banking sector as a whole and issues and concerns like banking penetration, and financial inclusion should remain paramount.

It also said that as frequent amendments in banking laws are being suggested, the government should come up with an integrated modern banking law for the country, which will be comprehensive and will consolidate all related provision of banking presently dispersed in different statues.

It also suggested changing the words ‘other purpose’, which could have a wide connotation and lead to ambiguities, with “incidental or ancillary to the promotion of depositor interest” with regard to utilisation of the depositors' fund.

The panel suggested that considering the wide scope and amplitude proposed in the definition of ‘Associate Enterprises’ of a banking company, the RBI regulatory mechanism should be beefed up in view of their expending role and augmented functions as proposed in the Bill.

With regard to suppression of board of directors of banking company and appointment of administrator, the committee has recommended changes to be made in the provisions to indicate the qualification of the administrator.

It suggested that no serving and retired officer of the central government and state governments should be considered for appointment as administrator and called for suitable amendments in the sub-clause of the Bill dealing with this provision.

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