Companies & Sectors
Mobile operators getting away from penalty due to laxity by TRAI

Who is monitoring the implementation of quality of services and in cases of violations, what the TRAI is doing? If a service provider explicitly or deliberately violates the QOS, it gets immunity till the violation is set right and no penal action for such anti–consumer act is transparently envisaged

Most of the telecom operators are taking undue advantage of the genuine complaints of consumers, under the loopholes of time bound action. Especially, service providers (SPs) are not strictly complying with the provisions of quality of service (QOS) in the arena of deficiency in service, wrongful or excessive billing and value added services (VAS) without explicit consent included, within the specified time.


This is in spite of the Telecom Consumers Complaint Redressal Regulations, 2012, and the Telecom Consumer Complaints Monitoring System for implementing the QOS standards to resolve issues within a specified time span.


The Consumer Complaints Cell (CCCell), which is a voluntary association of gratis workers to provide guidance and services for redressal of any consumer grievance, has been receiving such complaints from time to time. Majority of the complaints are redressed or resolved directly by the SPs; but when a complaint is not solved, the CCCell or the consumers directly complain to the designated Complaints Officer of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) viz: [email protected] Unfortunately all the complaints addressed or marked to the Complaints Officer of TRAI remain unacknowledged and unreplied. So far, TRAI has not made known any time bound deliverance system of disposal of complaints received by it in transparent a manner.


In the beginning of 2012, there was an interactive telecom consumers’ meet with the top authorities of TRAI at IMC hall in Mumbai, where the then TRAI chairman JS Sarma was also present. When this writer had specifically complained of “Lack of Deliverance and Monitoring” the complaints in a time bound transparent manner by TRAI, he had accepted this lacuna and had said that TRAI has already made such “Monitoring System” and it will soon be notified. True, such a scheme called “Telecom Consumer Complaints Monitoring System, 2012”, along with the updated “Telecom Consumers Complaint Redressal Regulations, 2012,” were notified in July 2012 which are in operation now. But unfortunately, although it strengthened the redressal system with some new provisions like declaration and implementation of “Telecom Consumers Charter” by each service provider; these rules of monitoring system failed to provide any relief to the wronged consumers from the regulator in issuing directions or penalizing the SPs for violation of the declared benchmarks of QOS.


No doubt TRAI made it clear that it will not direct the SPs for any monetary compensation or relief which the consumers may claim, and for that the consumer will have to go to the proper court under CPA. But then the vital question remains to be specified as to who is monitoring the implementation of QOS and in cases of violations, what the regulator or its Complaints Officer will do and within what time and consequence. TRAI is completely silent about that at least in a transparent manner. It only provides for a “Quarterly Audit” of QOS implementation by the SP and the audit specify areas to set right the failures. That means, if a SP explicitly or deliberately violates the QOS it gets immunity till the violation is set right and no penal action for such anti–consumer act is transparently envisaged.


Here is my own specific case of such violation causing “Deficiency in Service and mental torture” for no fault of mine.


My present service provider is Idea Cellular for my post-paid mobile no. 93222XXXXX. In mid-March, I had opted for their services. It was good going except for the “weak signals” in my building. To refurbish the infrastructure in my area for powerful signals, the company wanted time which I had agreed.


In mid-April I had purchased a branded smart phone with 3G. Since Idea now is not permitted to use 3G spectrum, I had put a pre-paid SIM card of Aircel, which has 3G. It was put in the main slot and the Idea card was in the secondary slot. The seller demonstrated all the features with the 3G facility including internet. Once this was over, I did not wish to use pre-paid Aircel SIM and had consented to subscribe Idea GPRS with 2G “Pay on use basis” and from 22nd April, I disabled my Aircel SIM. However, this did not help on Idea GPRS for Internet as often it clashed with the 3G disabled SIM of Aircel. When complained, Idea arranged to send a technician to me to properly set and demonstrate the use of Idea GPRS on my smartphone, but for that I had to discard the Aircel SIM and keep the handset only on Idea SIM. Once I was convinced that it can work on internet, I had immediately put ‘GPRS’ on off mode as I do all my internet work from my laptop having a high-speed BB. I did not operate my Idea SIM for GPRS/Internet.


When the April E-bill was sent to me, I was flabbergasted to know that my GPRS use has been of 30534.57 kb (about 30 MB) only between 22nd April to 30th April for which I was billed for Rs639.31 (+ ST). I instantly (4th May) complained to the Customer Care with a copy to the Appellate Authority of Idea and copy for information to the Complaints Officer TRAI, disputing the heavy GPRS charge without  actual use, and requested the SP to waive off this arbitrary charge. The Customer Care (CC) did not relent and maintained that it is actual and unable to “waive off”. Thereafter, I wrote to them, since I never used GPRS and kept it on Off Mode, how such huge amount of space in down/upload was shown unless  it is kept on “Automatic”/In Auto Mode” at the SP’s level without my request or subscription. Since this is not allowed under TRAI rules, I will escalate the issue at all possible levels including the social media to expose this “Unfair Practice” of Idea. Then the CC offered me to convert my GPRS under a fixed Rs98 plan with 1 GB space and thus I could save almost Rs540.


I maintained, my fight is for the ‘Rights’ and what is fair for the consumer and not for mere monetary advantage, therefore, the SP should in fairness, Waive off the total GPRS charge. Further I insisted for the entire use of ‘GPRS’ log per second. When the log sheet was provided; it clearly mentioned the use for almost 27x7, except a few second gap in between, as if I was using my Internet during sleep or resting time also.


Now without explaining how I could use such heavy net space, when GPRS was kept by me on “Off Mode”, the company wrote back saying offer of “GPRS 98” is withdrawn and SP cannot waive of anything from my GPRS bill. At this stage, I had to put this “Unfair and arbitrary” billing practice on all social media websites as my complaint for redressal with a copy to Idea Appellate and the TRAI complaints Officer. Thereafter, the SP offered me to “Waive Off” a sum of Rs500 if I accept that offer. That was 14th May. 16th May was the last date of my payment. This ‘Resolution’ offered was under unique docket no. SRXXX. To avoid the consequences of “disruption of service” as periodically threatened by the SP for non-payment of the bill amount; on 14th itself I accepted the offer of Rs500 waiver but subject to my right to go in Appeal against this partial waiver. Same day, I wrote to the CC to send me the amended bill amount before the 16th to enable me to pay in time, but if they delay I also had requested not to “disrupt my services” as threatened. (Unfortunately TRAI also left this ‘loophole’ as a penal tool in the hands of SP).


Instead of sending me the “Amended bill” the CC asked for some more time. To be at a safer side ,therefore, on my own I paid the balance amount of the bill “Under Protest” with a specific written notice by email as well as a hard copy. In spite of this, the SP neither informed the billing department nor to me about this “Waiver adjustment”. As per the QOS rule of TRAI, implementation of the  resolution of the grievance, has to be done by SP within a period of seven days .In this case, on or before 21st May. However, to my chagrin, I noticed on 21st May at 2.30pm that my “outgoing call facility” had been withdrawn by the SP for non-payment of full bill amount. This was a pure and simple case of deceit and victimization of the consumer to teach a lesson by “mental torture” violating the TRAI norms and rules openly.  This “illegal act” thus resulted in my strong complaint letter, along with an indictment mail from the secretary, Consumer Complaints Cell too, to all Idea (SP) authorities, Complaints Officer, TRAI and the social networking websites including the print media (including Moneylife forum).


Next day, as SP failed to honour or restore the “outgoing call facility”, I had to put a strong formal complaint to the Department of Telecommunications. The department was requested to take “appropriate penal action” against the violations of the provisions of “Consumers Complaint Redressal Regulations, 2012,”in specific reference to the QOS guidelines viz:

  1. Failure to adhere to provide a unique docket no. for each complaint, and to go on changing the same after each mail exchanged on the same subject matter.
  2. Violating the time span of 48 hours to reply/redress the grievance.
  3. Although the copies of the dispute communications—right from the day one—were sent to the Complaints Officer, TRAI, at the given email Id: [email protected], no action or corrective response was given.
  4. Under the redressal regulations it is binding on the SP to implement the resolution offered and accepted by the consumer within seven days. This is violated with impunity against interest of the consumer.
  5. The SP (Idea Cellular, Mumbai) has printed the fax no. as 9594004993 on the bill. Since this a mobile number, this is dysfunctional for fax, thus it is wrongful and misleading, forcing consumers to send complaints only through Speed Post or courier.

The same complaint was reiterated by the secretary, Consumer Complaint Cell by putting it as “FEEDBACK/SUGGESTIONS” at the national portal of Consumer Complaints.

“We shall be grateful, if this feedback/request for violation of laid down provisions of the binding rules is conveyed/forwarded to the concerned authorities for an appropriate urgent action to safeguard the interests and legal rights of the consumers at large ,and the complainant here in below Mohanlal Siroya with Idea mobile no. 93222XXXXX, in particular.


Awaiting your response,

Meanwhile thanking you

Sunit Shah

Hon. Secretary- Consumer Complaints Cell”.


This perhaps had the desired effect. Next day on 23rd May at 1.20pm the disrupted incoming call facility was restored. At the same time the SP’s CC replied that the “Waiver of Rs 500 has been credited in the account and the same will be reflected in the current month’s bill.


Now, in the interest of the larger telecom service users, it is to be seen if the TRAI or the DOT authorities take any appropriate action for intentional violation of TRAI regulations by the SP, Idea Cellular which is an arm of prestigious Aditya Birla Group. Besides, as a consumer activist I would suggest the Department of Telecom (DoT) to frame “Transparent Penal Regulations” for such violations by telecom SPs.


Needless to say that I will file an appeal with the SP’s Appellate Authority  and the Advisory Committee to decide my claim of “full GPRS charge waive” on merit and to grant me  suitable compensation for going without “Calling facility” for two days  with connected suffering of mental torture because of SP deficiency and sincerity.


(The author is the chairperson of the Consumer Complaints Cell, an NGO based in Mumbai.)


Sexual Harassment: Justice for Indian Women Not in Sight

As long as the justice delivery system remains slow and our courts refuse to order crippling monetary penalties, zero-tolerance of sexual harassment at the workplace will be discussed endlessly at HR seminars but never implemented.

High on IQ but low on common sense. That, in a nutshell, would sum up Phaneesh Murthy, the IT-whiz who turns out to be a serial sexual harasser. Will he get away again, with insurers and iGate paying the bill, allowing him to make a fresh start with orchestrated publicity? Already, many women are saying that the companies that employed Phaneesh Murthy initiated quick action only because it happened overseas, the women involved were foreigners and the information technology (IT) industry is particularly conscious about their reputation.

Other than Mr Murthy’s, there are barely three cases where sexual harassment charges have been quickly settled. This only goes to show how badly the decks are stacked against Indian women. One was when Coca Cola reportedly paid over Rs1.45 crore to former Miss Universe Shushmita Sen for charges brought against Shripad Nadkarni, its India head. The company claimed it was a contractual dispute but Mr Nadkarni quit soon thereafter. This happened in 2002-03 when the first Phaneesh Murthy episode was widely debated in the media. Coke would also have been conscious that Shushmita Sen’s super-celebrity status at that time would have damaged it considerably.

Another hush-hush episode involved a Tata group employee, Lenny Menezes, who was allegedly accused of sexual harassment by an overseas employee named Neena Helms. Here again, the matter was apparently settled with a $75,000 payout. Another major case was that of David Davidar who had to leave Penguin on charges of sexual harassment. For Indian women, the ‘better’ choice will always be to move on, rather that press charges. As long as the justice delivery system remains slow and our courts refuse to order crippling monetary penalties, zero-tolerance of sexual harassment at the workplace will be discussed endlessly at HR seminars but never implemented.



Boodugere Nagaraj

4 years ago

Hunger for sex is much worse than hunger for food! Many middle aged men/women have uncontrollable desire for sex, but their partners do not show any interest for sex for various reasons. In India there is no outlet for such persons as prostitution is illegal. Hence they resort to other methods to quench their sexual starvation. One of the remedies to reduce rape incidents is to legalise prostitution so that willing men and women can look for each other for mutual satisfaction. Healthy prostitution is permitted in all developed countries and they do not face much of a problem !

raj ahluwalia

4 years ago

But please do take note of the Delhi High Courts' comments on May 25, as reported in Sunday Times of 26 May:

New Delhi: The Delhi High Court has slammed the misuse of rape laws, saying women were using them as a 'weapon for vengeance n vendetta' to extort money from men or force them into marriage.
Observing that many women, after consensual sex, accuse their boyfriends of rape if the relationship ends, the HC said, forcing men to get married by slapping the charge not only makes a 'mockery' of marriage but also inflates the number of rape cases.

'It defeats the very purpose of the (penal) provisions (for rape), Justice Kailash Ghambir said....

IRDA allows insurers to set up business abroad

As per the norms, life and general insurance companies with a minimum net worth of Rs500 crore and Rs250 crore, respectively, can apply for setting up of foreign business

The Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA) has allowed insurers with sound financial health and a minimum of three years of operations to set up business in other countries.


Companies had been for long seeking permission from sector regulator to open foreign insurance companies, as well as branch offices abroad to exploit markets overseas.


IRDA has issued guidelines for Indian companies to set up life, general or reinsurance business abroad.


As per the norms, life and general insurance companies with a minimum net worth of Rs500 crore and Rs250 crore, respectively, can apply for setting up of foreign business.


In the case of reinsurance companies, the net worth should be Rs750 crore.


“The registered Indian insurance company should have been in operations for at least 3 years,” the guidelines said.


An insurer desirous of setting up foreign company or branch should have earned profits for the three years out of the past five years, it said.


Seeking to safeguard the interest of domestic policyholders, IRDA further said the insurer setting up overseas business will not be allowed to utilise the fund of domestic policyholders.


“The Indian insurance company shall have in place appropriate arrangements to ensure that the policyholder's liabilities that arise for foreign operations are adequately ring-fenced in order to protect the Indian policyholder,” the guidelines said.


There are 52 companies in life, general insurance and reinsurance business in India. Most of them have foreign partners.


An insurance company desirous of setting up foreign insurance company (including branch office) “should not suffer from any adverse report of the Authority on its track record of regulatory compliances, for three years out of the last five years from the date of application,” the IRDA added.


The guidelines also said the Indian insurers should formulate an “Investment Policy” to suit the scale, nature and area of operations of the foreign branch offices.


As per the IRDA, a “foreign insurance company means a company registered outside India whose paid-up capital is subscribed to by an Indian insurance company.


It shall include a foreign subsidiary company wherein the Indian insurance company has a holding of more than 50% of its paid-up capital or is in a position to control the composition of its board of directors. It shall also include a branch office of the Indian insurance company”, the IRDA added.


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