TDSAT Seminar 20 th October, 2007 Srinagar Consumer Rights under the TRAI Act, 1997 & Redressal of Consumer Grievances by Indu Malhotra Sr. Advocate Supreme Court of India
TELECOM REGULATORY AUTHORITY OF INDIA ACT,1997
TRAI was constituted to regulate the Telecommunication services by TRAI Act,1997.
Later, Broadcasting & Cable services were also brought within its purview by the Amendment Act of 2000.
Within a decade, the TRAI has played an effective role in regulating this industry by open house discussions, framing Regulations, Issuing Notifications & Tariff Orders, organizing seminars at various locations.
TRAI: THE REGULATOR
TRAI has taken various steps to protect the interest of the Consumers.
The consumers interests have been protected by TRAI broadly under the following heads :
1. Access – through “Must Provide Clause on non discriminatory basis”
4. Choice- mode, program and price.
QUALITY & CHOICE
Under S.11(1)(b)(v) the TRAI lays down standards of quality of service so as to protect the consumer interest
Over the last few years, the number of channels have rapidly multiplied
At present, the number of channels being offered are far in excess than what can be carried through the existing analogue systems
TRAI recommended to GOI to bring digital transmission in Cable TV industry.
In the analogue mode the max no. of channels that can be transmitted are about 70, with a choked bandwidth.
Today there are 260 channels registered with the GOI.
Digital transmission will give greater choice to consumers by increased channel carrying capacity, better reception of quality and new features such as program guides etc.
Digital technology in cable TV must take place at the earliest for the cable medium to compete with other delivery platforms for signal distribution.
TRAI has issued various notifications/tariff orders to regulate pricing of pay channels.
TRAI issued tariff Order dt. 15.1.2004 freezing the price of all pay channels as on 26.12.2003.
A further enhancement by 7% was permitted w.e.f 1.1.2005.
In CAS areas, for pay channels, by notification dated.31.8.2006 ceiling was fixed at Rs.5 in consumer interest.
In non CAS areas the TRAI has issued Tariff (Eighth Amendment) Order 4.10.2007( effective from 1.12.2007) fixing a ceiling at Rs.260 in A1 & A cities for 45 pay channels & 30 FTA
TRAI has also now mandated every broadcaster to specify and offer all channels on a-la-carte rate, in addition to a bouquet rate.
The Telecom Unsolicited Commercial Communications Regulations 2007 notified on 5.6.2007 to curb unsolicited commercial calls through telemarketing to protect consumers from invasion on privacy.
There are over 212 million telephone subscribers across the country today.
The Authority does not ban telemarketing, but only restricts the incidence of unwanted UCC ( Unwanted Commercial Communication).
To make telemarketers accountable, TRAI has mandated compulsory registration with DOT within 3 months.( effective on publication )
Hence only a registered telemarketer can be subscriber of a Telecom Service provider.
If an existing telemarketer fails to register within the stipulated period, the SPs have been authorised to disconnect their telephone connection
TRAI has mandated all access providers to will set up a mechanism to receive request from the subscribers who do not want to receive UCC.
They will maintain a Private Do Not Call List which will include telephone numbers and other detaild of such subscribers’
This data will be updated to a NDNC Registry.
The NDNC registry to be established in 3 months time by the National Informatics Centre.
After the establishment of the NDMC registry, telephone subscribers ( landline or cellular ) can register their telephone nos with the SPs for inclusion in the NDNC.
Telemarketers will have to verify their calling numbers list with the NDNC Registry before making a call.
COMPLAINTS OF UCC
In case a subscriber receives UCC after expiry of 45 days from registration in the NDNC Register he may make a Complaint to his Service provider.
The SP shall within 7 days verify & investigate the complaint, and WARN the guilty telemarketer to discontinue the sending of such UCC to the complainant.
If the UCC is repeated, a 2 nd time , the originating access provider shall charge the tariff specified in the Telecom Tariff Order 1999 as amended by the Telecom Tariff ( 45 th Amendment) Order, 2007 to be charged from the sender by the access SP.
If the customer sends the UCC for the 3 rd time, the originating access provider shall disconnect the telephone of the guilty telemarketer.
TDSAT: THE ADJUDICATOR
TDSAT established under S.14 of the TRAI Act,1997 as amended by the Amendment Act,2000.
Under S.14 it is empowered to adjudicate disputes between:-
A licensor and licensee
Two or more service providers
A service provider and a group of consumers.
Individual consumers can approach the Consumer Fora.
REDRESSAL OF CONSUMER GRIEVANCES
The Call Centres & Inter Active Voice Response System are ineffective & lack human face ; to remedy this problem, the Authority introduced in-house institutional mechanism to make it responsive & consumer sensitive.
TRAI has published the Telecom Protection & Redressal of Grievances Regulations, 2007 ( 3 of 2007).
Every SP shall establish a Call Centre with toll free no., accessible 24/7, for redressal of grievances of its consumers, within 60 days of the Regulations coming into force.
For disruption / disconnection of service, complaints to be redressed within 3 days of registration of complaint ; for other complaints, a time limit of 7 days is prescribed
Every SP shall designate Nodal Officers in each of its licensed service area, who shall redress complaints within time limits prescribed.
WHERE SHOULD THE CONSUMER GO?
Appellate Authority to be established by the SP to hear & dispose off appeals and ensure that the status/ details of appeals are exhibited on the website
The Authority may refer to SPs Complaints alleging violation of Act or Regulations or Complaints which are generic.
Every SP shall publish a Manual of Practice for handling consumer complaints.
IMPORTANT HIGHLIGHTS OF TDSAT’s DECISIONS
TDSAT has now prescribed ad valorem Court fee to prevent the filing of frivolous complaints.
Re CAS : By the interactive system in set top box the consumer can get pay channels of his choice & pay separately for channels.