Unclaimed telco refunds to go into consumer fund

To be used in welfare measures: TRAI

January 16, 2020 10:18 pm | Updated 10:18 pm IST - NEW DELHI

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Thursday said telecom service providers will need to deposit all unclaimed money of consumers, including excess charges and security deposit, in the Telecommunication Consumers Education and Protection Fund (TCEPF).

“The authority observed that there is a need to bring clarity among service providers in depositing money which they are unable to refund to the consumers,” TRAI said, adding that while some service providers were depositing money only on account of excess billing revealed in the audit, others were depositing unclaimed money such as security deposits and plan charges of failed activations.

“It is prudent to deposit any such unclaimed / unrefundable amount belonging to consumers in the TCEP fund as it will be utilised for the welfare measures of the consumers. Accordingly, it was felt that an amendment in the TCEPF regulation may be carried out to remove any kind of ambiguity and facilitate deposit of any unclaimed money of the consumer such as excess charges, security deposit, plan charges of failed activations, etc.,” TRAI said.

The TCEPF Regulations, 2007, which have now been amended, provide the basic framework for depositing unclaimed money of consumers by service providers, maintenance of the TCEPF and other related aspects.

“With this amendment, service providers will deposit any unclaimed consumer money of any form such as excess charges, security deposit, plan charges of failed activations, or any amount belonging to a consumer, which service providers are unable to refund to consumers, to the fund after providing time of 12 months or period of limitation specified under law whichever is later,” the authority said.

In a separate release, the regulator said that the total wireless subscribers in the country declined from 1,183.40 million at the end of October 2019 to 1,154.39 million at the end of November 2019, a monthly decline of 2.43% or 28.82 million subscribers.

As per the data, while wireless subscription in urban areas declined from 662.92 million in October to 647.33 million in November, wireless subscription in rural areas fell from 520.48 million to 507.26 million in the months under review.

Additionally, Reliance Jio was the market leader with 32.04% market share, followed by Vodafone Idea (29.12%), Bharti Airtel (28.35%), BSNL (10.19%) and MTNL (0.29%).

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