The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) floated a dialogue paper on Thursday, seeking stakeholders’ opinions on whether to intrude in deducing the validity duration of telecom tariff offers or keep it under the tolerance authority. TRAI said it had received numerous complaints, including ones where consumers asserted, they were being made to do 13 recharges in a year for monthly plans, making them feel cheated.
The regulator also sought views on whether telecom operators should be “mandated or merely advised” to deliver their plan vouchers, special tariff vouchers, and combo vouchers, among others, for specific durations.
Trai said it was rampant with complaints from mobile phone users that the popular 28-day (prepaid) telco tariff packs, instead of a standard monthly offering, confuse, hardship, and force them to do 13 recharges of monthly prepaid tariffs in a year.
“The extent of resentment among consumers in this regard can be gauged from the numerous RTIs/complaints on the issue, and (accordingly,) it may be prudent to look into the issue from the aspect of consumer choice,” TRAI said in the paper.
The regulator said, “it has also been receiving Parliament questions from MPs on the issue of considering 28 days as a month in the telecom sector”, underlining the concerns over the issue.
Accordingly, it sought stakeholders’ views on whether the specified validity span of tariff offer “should be 30 days or a month, with the requirement of the tariff to be renewed only on the same date of each month”. It also invited feedback on whether separate tariff offers must be mandated for 29/30/31 days in addition to the present practice of offering them for 28 days.
The present forbearance regime gives carriers the freedom to design tariffs (including validity spans) suited to prevailing market conditions. However, it is subject to reporting requirements and adherence to the principles of tariff assessments, as in transparency, non-discrimination, and non-predation.
Deadlines for comments and counter-comments for TRAI’s latest discussion paper are June 11 and June 25, respectively.
Telcos, on their part, have told TRAI that unlike post-paid mobile services, where a concept of the fixed billing cycles every month is followed, prepaid services resume from the date of recharge and follow the validity period expressed in terms of the number of days rather than a fixed monthly billing span.
The regulator, though, said the US telecom carrier Verizon “follows a monthly system for charging its prepaid services and clarifies in very specific terms that monthly prepaid plans renew on the same date every month, regardless of how many days there are in the month”.
In its paper, TRAI also invited views on whether telcos must similarly be mandated to fix specific validity spans for quarterly, half-yearly, and annual prepaid tariff offerings.