How prepaid mobile subscribers are being looted

Arbitrary hikes in data and call charges for prepaid subscribers are frequent and not limited to just one mobile operator. In addition, Vodafone and Idea have reduced 3G prepaid data pack validity to a non-standard 28-days, thus forcing the user to recharge 13 times in a year instead of 12

 

Subscribers of Bharti Airtel have right to be furious over the mobile operator’s decision to charge extra for subscribers using voice over internet protocol (VoIP) apps, like Skype, Viber, Facebook Messenger and Google Hangouts. However, Airtel is not the only one who is charging more to its own subscribers. Several mobile operators like Vodafone and Idea Cellular are discriminating between their own post-paid and prepaid subscribers by enforcing non-standard validity period for internet packs. This follows an arbitrary hike in mobile data tariffs for 3G packs irrespective of whether the subscriber really gets the specified, minimum speed for internet or no. However, more about it later.

 

The telecom industry follows a monthly billing cycle for all post-paid subscribers. However, when it comes to prepaid subscribers, all telcos want to simply loot them. While a post-paid subscriber pays for 30 days of usage, prepaid customers are forced to use a validity of 28 days for internet packs. Remember, in India, over 90% of the subscribers are in the prepaid category. Therefore, you can imagine the margins earned by telcos from this clever usage of validity reduction.

 

Both Vodafone and Idea use 28-day validity for all their prepaid mobile internet packs. So how much more it costs to the subscribers in terms of usage? When you use a validity of 30 days over a year, you may lose just five days (used for 30*12=360) in a year.

 

However, when you are forced to use 28 days validity, you end up losing almost a month (used for 28*12=336 days). This means instead of recharging for 12 times, prepaid subscribers are forced to recharge 13 times in a year, giving an extra income to service providers. This is nothing but daylight robbery of prepaid subscribers, which the regulator Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is supposed to stop.

 

According to TRAI norms, telecom operators are mandated to conduct a self-check to ensure that the tariff plan(s) is/are consistent with the regulatory principles in all respects which inter-alia include interconnection usage charges (IUC) compliance, non-discrimination and non-predation. However, the act of Vodafone and Idea is in contrast with this direction from TRAI. Both telcos are openly discriminating between post-paid and prepaid subscribers by offering them different validity period for the same service.

 

As I wrote in 2013, arbitrary hikes in data and call charges are frequent and not limited to just one mobile operator. How does TRAI allow such practices? Why no action is initiated against these telecom companies? (Read: How Idea Cellular arbitrarily increased data charges

 

In June 2013, all the three telecom services providers—Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular—once again showed their camaraderie by reducing data tariff on 2G by as much as 90%. What was interesting in the telcos decision to slash rates for 2G data, this was applicable in almost all the circles where Airtel, Vodafone and Idea did not have a 3G license in their individual capacity.

 

All the three partners have been increasing tariff for 3G data packs as well. Earlier, the 3G data pack for prepaid subscriber used to cost Rs98 (1GB) for a validity of 30 days. It was increased to Rs125, then to Rs154 and suddenly to Rs249. Both Idea and Vodafone charge Rs245 and Rs251, respectively for 1GB prepaid internet 3G pack with a validity of 28 days. Airtel charges Rs249 for the same pack with a validity of 30 days. However, none of them can assure the subscriber (both prepaid and post-paid) a minimum download speed across locations. Ask any mobile internet user and she will tell you about the miniscule internet speed she gets despite paying higher price for a 3G data pack.

 

According to TRAI, the minimum download speed varies amongst the telecom services providers (TSPs) even for the same technology and the variation is also quite large. for eg:- in 2G technology, the speed varies from 21.42 kbps to 97.06 kbps between the operators.

 

“Moreover," TRAI says, "the telecom consumers availing wireless data services are not aware of the minimum download speed being offered to them by the TSPs. Generally, the tariff plans offered by the TSPs are based on the volume of data usage for various technologies, without any clarity about the speed being offered to consumers. Also, there is no commitment of minimum download speed while offering a tariff plan."

 

Telecom operators had reported to TRAI that the minimum download speed delivered on their highest speed of 3G service is in the range of 399 kbps (less than minimum broadband speed of 512 kbps) to 2.48 mbps.

 

On 24 July 2014, TRAI came out with a regulation to amend the Standards of Quality of Service for Wireless Data Services Regulations, 2012 (26 of 2012). It mandates service providers to indicate the minimum download speed available and the same should be available to subscribers for not less than 80% of the usage time.

 

However, most of the times, mobile subscribers never get the data speed as promised by their service provider. Subscribers are not even informed about the drop in data speed.

 

How come mobile operators are allowed to increase tariffs, introduce non-standard validity periods as per their whims and fancies? How come telecom regulator TRAI or the Department of Telecom (DoT) allow such an arbitrary decisions by mobile operators? Will there be any action against such acts or prepaid mobile subscribers should continue to suffer at the hands of the cartel?

Comments
gopalakrishnan.tv
4 months ago
Identify one area of service where there is no fraud or loot. Loot has been an accepted business model every where and unfortunately no semblance of governance is visible is also a fact. People have lost their trust and suffering has become a fait accompli. No provision to ventilate the grievances is the trend of late. No regulation is visible anywhere is the reality. No one cares these days for deficiency of services,for unfair trade practices and injustice meted out to all sorts stakeholders as consumers, investors, employees, service providers , or in any c apacity. Silently suffering is the best remedy to avoid further comications in health and finance .
moulibcm
4 months ago
I do not understand how such a scan started and why the Government allows it !! They get away with charging customers 13 times in an year instead of 12!! I don't know if such practice is allowed elsewhere in the world!! Will the companies like Airtel, jio and Vodaphone pay their electricity , water and other bills every 28 days instead of monthly? Of course not,, because they are not as stupid as their customers.. Shame on the local and central government for allowing such practices !!
BABURAJ SANTHANAM
4 years ago
positively tell we have got more than enough service providers. unavoidably say they eat our money.
Chintan
7 years ago
details & eye opening article for all people....many people do not even think for this trick of private operator for money siphoning from our pocket....
Sudharsan R
Replied to Chintan comment 7 years ago
Being frank, TRAI is asking Telecom players what is net neutrality . Then automatically Indians are looters for their hunger and they remain robbers ..
MOHAN SIROYA
7 years ago
There is nothing new in this looting of prepaid customers by all telecom service providers (SPs). They violate the TRAI directions with impunity in all respects. TRAI is toothless and merely acts as a post office to forward ANY GRIEVANCE TO THE CONCERNED SP, who merely says that either is grievance under process or is disposed off. How and in what manner, whether the customer got any relief or not is not TRAI's concern. They claim they are toothless, TRAI Act does not provide any authority to them to redress any consumer grievance. Pre-paid customers just get SMS that so and so amt. is charged/deducted from Balance for the VAS which the subscriber never asked for . Unfortunately 90 percent of such illegal deductions go unreported as the harassed and busy customers have no time and resources to fight back for a trial deduction of a few rupees. And those 10 percent who fight just for principle may not also get relief even at Appellate level and TRAI will just believe what SP has said.
WE Consumer Organisations have been crying hoarsely to the Ministry of Consumer Affairs and DOPT to at least appoint an Ombudsman to mediate in disputes, if TRAI is not empowered to do, but so far it has gone on deaf ears.
I think it is high time that a concerted onslaught is made on the MOCA and DOPT for this protection. If TRAI or Government can not protect from wrong charges, they should at least control the Telecom tariffs visa- vis its cost to the SP.
Sudharsan R
Replied to MOHAN SIROYA comment 7 years ago
TRAI is asking Telecom players what is net neutrality to regulate all application ex: whatsapp, olx etc.., seems TRAI is also a robber in India
Sudharsan R
Replied to MOHAN SIROYA comment 7 years ago
Being frank, TRAI is asking Telecom players what is net neutrality . Then automatically Indians are looters for their hunger and they remain robbers .....
Sudharsan R
Replied to MOHAN SIROYA comment 7 years ago
TRAI is handicapped and sick department in India with all foolish and useless fellows working in department.
Sudharsan R
Replied to MOHAN SIROYA comment 7 years ago
Absolutely right I think people in TRAI might get heavy kickbacks from all these looters some way or other.
SANDIP BISWAS
7 years ago
Best to use BSNL 3G Data Pack 20GB Rs 1949 60days validity
Bhaskar Raut
7 years ago
TRAI should look in to the matter.
I had subscribed for 3D services from my service provider,but I could not get the expected speed. The speed was equal to the speed of 2G. Subsequent to that I am subscribing to 2G only.
Sudharsan R
Replied to Bhaskar Raut comment 7 years ago
wat to get rid is #netneutrality.in
Mahesh S Bhatt
7 years ago
Mostly if the data is unused best practice should be give Consumer addon to existing pack but telcos delete the unused portion for their gain & that's also big ticket.

Call details transactionwise are payable while as Consumer you should get itemised bills as your right they charge extra for hard copies & in soft copy they give consolidated informations.

Mahesh
R S Murthy
7 years ago
Like drug sellers, thesde companies take you to addiction level and charge as they like. Once customer is addicted, more particularly the youngsters, no way to escape. Where is the need for one to download all sorts of music, films etc. It is the weakness that is exploited.
Sudharsan R
Replied to R S Murthy comment 7 years ago
You are absolutely right they make GB conscious and mad to cheat each and every young citizen and make it spreads like virus.
Dineshbabu G
7 years ago
How does the mobile user complain? Airtel even reduced the talktimes and internet pack in their subscription packs and kept the charges as same.

Earlier 1 pack had 100 minutes of local talktime and 90 minutes of STD usage & now the same has been reduced to 90 minute and 80 minutes and that too without informing the users !!!
Sudharsan R
Replied to Dineshbabu G comment 7 years ago
I think they should be awarded by all leading business Magazines every year "How to make money by fooling customers"
Sudharsan R
7 years ago
The exact fact.
Tamal Bhattacharjee
7 years ago
Absolutely true. Rates of 3g data from private operators are exorbitant, arbitrary and these operaters formed carrels to fool their customer. I have also doubt about data usage figure apart from speed.
Bsnl 3g data quality or speed may not be god but atleast they are trust worthy. In India people are raliking about efficiency of private sector. But in terms of trust worthiness public sector is always better.
Sudharsan R
Replied to Tamal Bhattacharjee comment 7 years ago
They have made people GB conscious and mad with GB restrictions and speed restrictions. Once BSNL introduced 3G there was Truly Unlimited plan for Rupees 1000 I (do not remember exactly) and it had no restrictions with speed.But when all these private players jumped in they made and still making fool out of every citizen and forced public sector companies to follow them as the cheat public and the key private looter is airtel.
Tamal Bhattacharjee
Replied to Tamal Bhattacharjee comment 7 years ago
Some spelling mistakes like carrels instead of cartels, god for good, raliking for talking.
Prakash Jain
7 years ago
Airtel recently increased call charges on prepaid without any notice and information, it is simply cheating. Matter serious.
Sudharsan R
Replied to Prakash Jain comment 7 years ago
May be Airtel are very tradition in India they might be studying and researching each and every customer behaviour and learn how to fool and loot every citizen and make them addict to their company.
rajivahuja
7 years ago
Why does't TRAI do something against this daylight robbery. It seems all the operators have formed a cartel of looting their subscribers who are taking 3G packages.
Sudharsan R
Replied to rajivahuja comment 7 years ago
They have formed an association called COAI to loot each and every citizen in India and the main associates are airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular. TRAI is sick and handicapped regularity in India.
Gopalakrishnan T V
7 years ago
The next scam will be in the Communication system. Both prepaid and post paid mobile users get some bill every month and for ordinary people it is highly impossible to arrive at the figures given in the bill. The money has no value and the present generation has lost the habit of being meticulous. Old generation people try to be meticulous but the way people earn and spend they also have also lost control. Greed has overtaken the market and no body cares as to how the bills are raised. Banks are also doing the same thing. Of late the banks charge Convenience Charges for booking air tickets through Internet using plastic cards. The fact of the matter is that the ethical way of doing business has been on the way out. Regulation is literally absent.Make hay while the sun shines and loot the masses as long as it is possible is the approach almost everywhere these days.
Sudharsan R
Replied to Gopalakrishnan T V comment 7 years ago
Exactly and 101% right.
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