In light of the increase in complaints by consumers, Telecom
Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has notified a compensatory
mechanism for consumers facing call drops. TRAI has mandated that
call drops are instances of 'deficiency in service' on part
of the Telecom Service Providers (TSPs) and has thus ordered
compensation by the TSPs to every consumer facing a call drop. The
TSPs understandably don't welcome the move and contend that if
the compensatory mechanism, which has been discussed in this
article, is implemented, they are set to lose out as compensation
up to 3-5% of the industry's annual revenue which is
approximately USD 36 billion.
According to the TRAI Act, 1997, the function of TRAI
inter-alia is to lay down and ensure the standards of
quality of service to be provided by the TSPs and conduct
periodical survey of such service so as to protect the interests of
the consumers of telecommunication service. In exercise of these
powers, TRAI had laid down the 'quality of service
benchmarks' for TSPs through a regulation in 2009, which was
further amended from time to time. According to this regulation,
the quality of service benchmark for call drop has been laid down
as '<=2%' for the TSPs (QoS benchmarks). In compliance
of the regulations, all TSPs are required to furnish monthly
reports of their quality of service performances against the set
QoS benchmarks to TRAI.
Most TSPs have reported to meet the QoS benchmarks for call drop
in their monthly reports. However, with the increase in complaints
regarding call drops, TRAI decided to conduct its own tests for the
cities of Mumbai and Delhi in June and July, 2015 respectively. The
results of the independent drive tests by TRAI stated that, out of
6 TSPs in Delhi and Mumbai, only 1 TSP was meeting the QoS
benchmarks for call drop in Delhi and Mumbai respectively.
Subsequently, TRAI published a consultation paper dated October,
4th, 2015 on 'Compensation to the Consumers in the event of
Dropped Calls' that suggested; (a) provision for not charging
for dropped calls and (b) providing credit to consumers for dropped
calls. Consequently, on October 16th, 2015, TRAI has by the Ninth
Amendment to the 'Telecom Consumers Protection Regulations,
2015 (amendment/said amendment) mandated TSPs to provide
compensation to the consumers for call drop with effect from
January 1st, 2016.
The said amendment defines call drop as a "voice call
which, after being successfully established, is interrupted prior
to its normal completion; the cause of early termination is within
the network of the service provider" It further states
that, every originating TSP providing cellular mobile telephone
service shall, credit the account of the calling consumer by one
rupee, for each drop within its network, to a maximum of 3 dropped
calls in a day. There is also a requirement to provide the calling
consumer, within 4 hours of the dropped call through Short Message
Service (SMS) / Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD)
message in case of prepaid consumers and provide details of the
credit in the next bill in case of post-paid consumers. However,
according to latest news articles, TSPs have urged TRAI to withdraw
its order to compensate users for call drop saying it is a coercive
and grossly unjust measure and will force TSPs to raise tariffs.
TSPs have also indicated that TRAI may not have the jurisdiction to
order compensation for call drops.
While the intent of TRAI to make TSP to provide seamless
services to its subscribers is commendable and is in line with
steps to improve quality of coverage, there seems to be an
ambiguity and lack of clarification pertaining to the said
amendment which makes this step come across as a half-hearted
There are certain questions that arise, the primary one being
the determination of a dropped call. The term 'normal
completion' under the definition of call drops has to be
elaborated for clarity for determination of a dropped call. It is
essential to figure out whether there was a call drop due to a
problem in the network or the call was terminated by the consumer.
The TSPs are contending that many consumers may deliberately cause
calls to drop, so as to gain monetary benefit, which could
eventually run into millions for a single TSP.
Further, there seems to be a disparity between the existing QoS
benchmarks that provide for a leverage of up to 2% and the said
amendment which prescribes a penalty from the very first instance
of a dropped call. In the absence of any clarification, it is
understood that with the said amendment, TRAI is envisaging a 0%
call drop regime. It therefore remains to be seen whether TRAI
would come out with clarifications before the amendment is put to
test or the TSPs challenge the same before the appropriate
authority subsequently increasing tariffs to meet costs.
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guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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