“No chargeable Value Added Service (VAS) shall be provided to the customer without his or her explicit consent. The telecom service provider cannot activate any value added service as in the case of ‘Press… to copy hello tunes' or through pressing of any other single key or combination of keys,” said Mathew Palamattam, Joint Advisor, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), New Delhi, on Sunday.

Addressing a workshop organised by the Consumer Guidance Society (CGS), Vijayawada, on telecom consumers protection and redressal of grievances, Mr. Palamattan clarified that VAS could be activated only after double confirmation by the service provider.

The workshop was attended by a good number of members from various consumer organisations and civil society groups.

Speaking at length on the constitution, functions and powers of TRAI and the various measures initiated to protect consumer interests, Mr. Palamattam focussed on the TRAI Act vis-a-vis its powers and functions, the consumer-centric directions, orders and regulations issued by TRAI from time to time and other initiatives.

Speaking about the regulatory body's genesis, he said it came into force on January 2 1997 and was amended in 2000, providing for establishment of two independent bodies – the TRAI and the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT).

He said the TRAI was responsible to regulate the telecommunication services, to protect the interests of consumers and service providers of the Telecom Sector and to promote and ensure orderly growth of the sector.

He said TRAI's mission was to create and nurture conditions for the growth of telecommunications including broadcasting and cable services in the country in a manner and at a pace which will enable India to play a leading role in the emerging global information society.

He said the TRAI was empowered to fix tariffs, to issue directions, to make regulations and to call for information. He also explained the various modes of utilising the Grievance Redressal Mechanism put in place by the TRAI to establish speedy, effective, transparent and inexpensive complaint redressal system within the company.

The interactive session that followed was aimed at eliciting a feedback from the subscribers who highlighted the wide gap between the prescribed service standards and the ground reality.

The Krishna District Consumer Forum president T. Rama Raju, president of the Confederation of Andhra Pradesh Consumers' Organisation (CAPCO) V. Gowri Sankar, president of Consumers' Guidance Society Somu Krishnamurthy and its general secretary Ch. Diwakar Babu were also present.

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