While SEBI’s investigation department deserves kudos for this action, the larger question is:...
In order to improve the quality of services and compensate the subscriber in case of poor services, the telecom regulator has started a discussion with mobile operators
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is looking into introducing a system of compensation to the subscribers for the lack of quality telecom service and the regulator is discussing various aspects of it with service providers.
Speaking at a consumer awareness programme on telecom, JS Sharma, chairman TRAI said that, “We are currently looking at the feasibility of asking the telecom service providers to compensate you (subscribers) in the event where they won’t measure up to the quality of services. But it is something that we need to visit carefully, see how feasible it is and understand the pitfalls.”
However since this process is in initial stages of discussion the TRAI chairman refused to provide any timeline for it. “I wouldn’t commit anything at this stage but we looking at the system of compensation to consumers,” he said.
The regulatory authority also said that it would soon implement guidelines tightening the Value Added Services (VAS) offered by the telecom players. Many subscribers complain that VAS gets subscribed on its own.
Responding to the automatic subscription of VAS services, Mr Sharma said, “We had issued instructions on VAS sometime back. We feel that there is a need to improve it. Now we are of the stand that the VAS will not be added without the consent of the subscribers specifically through an SMS. Industry has some reservations about it. Next week we will have a discussion with them. But we won’t deviate from our stand that such services cannot be added without the consent of the subscribers.”
Recently TRAI had announced a host of pro-consumer measures. It announced Telecom Consumers Protection Regulations, 2012 where it has asked operators to inform subscribers, every time, about the amount that is deducted from their account. It has given a deadline of 45 days to the operators to build a system where a message would be sent to subscribers including information on duration of call, deducted amount, balance, and also the tariff plan.
According to the regulation, prepaid consumers will get an itemised usage of their account on payment of cost not exceeding Rs50 and operators have been asked to provide it within 30 days of request.
Further, it has asked the operators to provide customers with a start-up kit at the time of enrolment, containing a SIM card, a mobile number and an abridged version of the Citizen’s Charter, stating the rights of a consumer.
TRAI have also standardised pre-paid vouchers in three categories, with each voucher having different colour. Accordingly plan voucher will have red coloured band, top-up voucher a green and special tariff voucher will have a yellow band.
To improve the system of complaint mechanism, TRAI announced the Telecom Consumers Complaint Redressal Regulations. It has asked the service providers to set up complaint centres and a web-based complaint monitoring system within 45 days in order to help the consumers to check the status of the complaints filed. Under the new system, there won’t be the current three three-tier complaint redressal mechanism and a nodal officer instead there would be a call centre and appellate authority.
Speaking at a BTUA seminar, TRAI chairman JS Sarma, said the regulator will definitely have discussions with mobile service providers on MNP rejections, which has become a contentious issue for subscribers and activists
The much-touted mobile number portability (MNP) was introduced over a year ago in order to provide relief to subscribers from nuisances of their current service provider. However, the common experience so far is far from satisfactory. In fact there are a number of complaints about service providers rejecting MNP requests on frivolous grounds. While the telecom regulator is aware about the problems, service providers are hiding behind reasons, like India's better porting rate and newness in the system.
JS Sarma, chairman, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), while speaking at a recent seminar organised by the Bombay Telephone Users' Association (BTUA), said, "The porting out rate (in India) is high compared to other nations. We will definitely have discussions with service providers on this issue."
MNP, which allows a subscriber to change the operator while keeping the same number, was launched in India in November 2010. In February 2011, Moneylife reported that the initial euphoria for MNP was still there, its impact so far had been lacklustre and it may not be a game changer for the telecom industry.
While there is an increase in the number of requests for porting over the period, subscribers are still facing many issues like contractual obligations while going for an MNP facility.
Commenting on the issue, Vikram Tiwathia, associate director general, Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), who was also present at the seminar said, "Look at the size of this country and number of mobile users. It is like putting MNP in entire Europe. There are 23 circles, so there are complexities and lot of time and effort is required to mature. COAI took a leading role in MNP implementation. Initially, there were lot of challenges from DoT (Department of Telecommunications) and TRAI but now things are working fine."
Earlier, while speaking about the 'contractual obligation', which is used by service providers for rejecting MNP requests, Achintya Mukherjee, honorary secretary, Bombay Telephone Users' Association (BTUA), had said, "In the contractual obligation there is always an 'exit clause', which they (the operators) can ask the subscriber to comply with and then allow him to port out. In our considered view, an individual consumer cannot be held on to a contract signed by a corporate body, even if that individual was a part of the common group." (read... Are mobile operators deliberately rejecting MNP requests?)
Recently, TRAI had issued show-cause notices to telecom companies, including Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone, for violating MNP guidelines. On 24th May last year, the regulator had issued broad directions on contractual obligation which says telecom operators should not reject MNP request if the amount of subscriber due is less than Rs10. It also said that the MNP request can be rejected if the customer has a post-paid connection with bundled handset and the subscriber has not complied with the exit condition of the deal.
Moneylife previously reported how the announcement of MNP had led to a race among telecom companies to improve their services with the fear of losing customers. ( read... Does mobile number portability threat makes customer services more responsive? ) However, it seems as if all the operators have joined hands and are rejecting porting requests on frivolous grounds, in order to retain their own set of customers.