New Delhi: As mobile users continue to grapple with call drops, telecom regulator Trai on Friday said current norms are “inefficient” to provide any relief to consumers and it will finalise in two weeks its “position” in the wake of Supreme Court quashing a penalty provision.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had put in place a new set of rules mandating telecom operators to pay Re 1 for each dropped call, subject to maximum Rs 3 per day, but this provision was quashed by the Supreme Court after telecom operators appealed against the regulatory diktat.
“We are reviewing the situation internally as to what should be the way forward. May be in couple of weeks we should be able to come out with the position as to what can be done,” Trai Chairman R S Sharma told PTI in an interview.
Calling current norms inefficient in providing relief to telecom consumers, he said: “Trai had tried by way of notionally compensating the consumers in cases of call drops.
As you know, the Regulation was challenged by TSPs (telecom service providers) before the Hon’ble High Court of Delhi where the Regulation was upheld.
“However, we lost out in the Hon’ble Supreme Court. I think we have to find some solution to this situation. I don’t have any solution at this moment.”
Unlike other sectors, he said, an average grievance of telecom consumers has certain peculiarities as the consumer base for mobile services in India is very large and the monetary value in most of the grievances is relatively small, around Rs 10-20.
“Hence an average consumer is not able to approach courts because the value is very low and even filing an affidavit will be more than the value of the complaint,” Mr Sharma said.
Consumers also cannot go to Trai because it cannot entertain individual complaints and if it receives them, it forwards them to the TSP concerned.
“He (consumer) can approach the Department of Telecom, but then they also do not have any pecuniary powers except through arbitration route provided in section 7B of the Indian Telegraph Act of 1885. Hence the DoT also merely forwards the complaints received by them to the concerned TSP,” he said.
Trai issued a regulation in 2012, creating a grievance redressal mechanism which provides for establishment of such a system by TSPs. Hence the consumer is left with no option but to go the telecom operators.
Customer complaints are at present addressed by telecom operators at three level — customer care centre executive. In case the customer is not satisfied, he or she can go to the nodal officer, and then to appellate authority.
Mr Sharma expressed dissatisfaction with present mechanism to address consumer complaints.
“Even the appellate mechanism is also operated by the TSPs themselves, there are issues relating to conflict of interest. Hence, as of now, consumer grievance redressal is not really very effective,” Mr Sharma said.
At present, such cases are not entertained by consumer courts as a Supreme Court judgement of 2009 had barred seeking remedy under Consumer Protection Act, saying that a special remedy is provided under Indian Telegraph Act.
Considering that the prevailing structure is not adequate or fully responsive to deal with the consumer complaints in telecom sector, Trai had recommended establishment of an Ombudsman in 2004 which has not happened till date.
“As the Trai Act mandates Trai to ‘protect the interest of the consumers of the telecom sector’, we will have to continue to work towards protecting their legitimate interests. It will be premature for me to make any comments or statement on what is the way forward. We are deliberating on that,” Mr Sharma said.
He added however that Trai has created a quality of service (QoS) portal at tower level which will be launched very soon. This will display the data provided by the TSPs.
“It will show coverage, congestion and call drop percentage etc. It will be a public portal. We hope to launch it very soon,” Mr Sharma said.