Trai floats discussion paper on validity period of tariff offers; cites consumer concerns

New Delhi, May 13 (Agency) Telecom regulator Trai on Thursday floated a discussion paper on ‘validity period of tariff offers’, as it took note of complaints and concerns being flagged by various consumers. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said it has been receiving a lot of references from consumers regarding the tariff offering by telecom service providers for 28 days instead of a monthly offering.

Trai noted that tariff for telecom services are largely under forbearance, with certain exceptions. The regulator has now asked stakeholders – public and industry – if it should intervene in the issue of the validity period or allow the same to be under forbearance. ‘…based on the feedback received from consumers through various channels, it is felt that certain tariff/vouchers and their validity offered by telecom service providers (TSPs) are not in satisfaction of a large section of consumers,’ Trai said in a statement. The purpose of the latest consultation paper is to identify such tariff offers and explore the possibility of making tariff or vouchers offered by service providers and their validity issues sync with the aspiration and requirements of consumers at large. Floating the consultation paper, Trai sought stakeholder views on various issues related to ‘Validity period of tariff offers’, and fixed June 11 and June 25 as timelines for written comments and counter comments. It said that the tariff offerings for postpaid services are made on a monthly basis, implying a period of 28/29/30/31 days, as the case may be. ‘Tariffs for prepaid services are offered in terms of the number of days which can range from 1 day to 90 days in respect of Special Tariff Vouchers/Combo Vouchers and minimum 180 days in respect of Plan vouchers. “However, the most popular offers made by the TSPs are in terms of days, weeks and multiple thereof, such as 28/56/84 days, while some of the TSPs are offering a 30-day tariff as well in addition to the popular tariff offers,’ it said.

Citing concerns being aired over tariff offering for 28 days instead of a monthly offering, Trai said, ‘the consumers have stated in their complaints that not only the same causes confusion but also they feel cheated’. ‘It also results in hardships for them as they need to make 13 recharges of the monthly prepaid tariff offering considering the validity period offered as 28 days instead of a month. The extent of resentment amongst consumers in this regard can also be gauged from numerous RTIs/complaints on the issue,’ it added.

Trai acknowledged that operators have been transparently disclosing the validity period, but went on to add ‘still it is felt that considering the perspective of the consumer, it may be prudent to look into the issue from the aspect of consumer choice as well’. The complaints, references and Parliament questions on the issue also exemplify the confusion in the minds of the consumer and practical hardships caused to them due to lack of monthly tariff offering, it added. In its consultation paper, the regulator has asked whether the TSPs should be mandated or merely advised to offer tariff (for PVs, STVs and CVs) for a specified duration.

It has also asked if ‘the period to be specified should be considered as 30 days or a month with the requirement of tariff to be renewed only on the same date of each month or separate tariff offers be mandated for 29/30/31 days in addition to the present practice of offering tariff for 28 days’. Another question pertains to whether on the lines of a monthly offering, the other periods like quarterly, half-yearly and yearly prepaid tariff offerings can be mandated or just the monthly offerings are required.