Staff Reporter

`Exit options should be clear for customer as well as company'

Regulator asks companies to specify on forfeiture of initial payment or refund if a subscriber exits from the scheme TRAI says subscribers can approach consumer courts Companies want TRAI to frame specific regulations Reliance Infocomm opposes asymmetric regulation

BANGALORE: With all mobile service providers offering "lifetime validity" services, the question before the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is whose "lifetime" the services will be offered that of the subscriber or that of the service provider.

TRAI has been gathering opinion from consumers as well as service providers by conducting "open house" sessions. In one such "open house" held here, TRAI has felt that clear indication of exit options for the subscriber and the service-provider will solve the problem in defining "lifetime validity" of mobile services offered by various operators throughout the country.

Open house

Interacting with representatives of service-providers and consumers at an open house on "Tariff plans with lifetime validity" here, TRAI Chairman Pradip Baijal summed up the discussion by stating the exit options should indicate provisions for refund or forfeiture of upfront payment if the subscriber wishes to withdraw from the scheme or the service-provider intends to withdraw the scheme within a specified period of time.

On protecting subscribers' interest, M. Kannan, Advisor (Economic) to TRAI, said the regulator can recommend to the Department of Telecom to cancel the licence of a service provider if it persistently violates service conditions with regard to large chunk of subscribers. He said individual subscribers have the option of approaching a consumer court.

Representatives of service providers urged TRAI to frame specific regulations instead of referring the issue to the Telecom Department.

To a suggestion from the representative of Reliance Infocomm that "lifetime" was offered on the basis of present market situation and it may change if Interconnection Usage Charges are altered, Mr. Baijal said it will be a dangerous situation. In essence, TRAI said "lifetime" should cover the un-expired licence period of the service provider.

On TRAI's suggestion to introduce asymmetric regulation requiring the dominant operator in the concerned service area to obtain prior approval of tariffs from the authority, the operators differed.

While Reliance said such a time has gone as markets keep growing, Tata Teleservces said the regulation should be applied to dominant player who can destroy the market.

Mr. Baijal later told The Hindu that TRAI will come out with its findings and regulations on the matter within a month.