Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Why TRAI avoids to address the issue of Value Added Services being faced by telecom subscribers?

Two surveys indicates 90% of the subscribers stating that the telecom companies are activating Value Added Services (VAS) without seeking their consent. Surprisingly the problems become further exaggerated when the telecom companies are allowed to put such VAS on Auto Renewal on the unscientific presumption that most of the consumers are interested in such auto renewals. On the contrary to TRAI belief , another survey indicated that more than 80% subscribers are not interested in auto renewal of value added services. 

I tried to find out the reason as to why Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is not interested or rather avoids to address the issues of VAS. First application was submitted to TRAI on 11/04/2012. Finding no response, the matter was referred to Central Information Commission (CIC). The gist of the same is reproduced below quoting out of CIC order No. CIC/BS/A/2012/001230 dtd. 17/07/2013.

Q. Whether the telecom companies are allowed for auto renewal of value added service and special tariff package on expiry of the originally subscribed period without explicit consent of the subscribers.

TRAI response: There are no regulatory guidelines issued from TRAI for disallowing auto-renewal facilities for value added services and special tariff vouchers.

CIC Order: I fully agree with the appellant ( appellant stated that TRAI be advised to issue definitive guidelines for ethical business practices). TRAI must evolve clear and categorical guidelines in this matter in next three months.

Finding no compliance to CIC order, another application was submitted on 02/06/2014 to CPIO, TRAI which is reproduced below:

Sub: Seeking information under RTI Act 2005 in respect of Auto Renewal of Value Added Services and Special Tariff Package after expiry of originally subscribed period without consent of the subscribers.

Dear Sir,
1.      Hon’ble Central Information Commission vide order no. CIC/BS/A/2012/001230 dated 17.07.2013 noted the statement of CPIO, TRAI that Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had not framed any regulatory guidelines for Auto Renewal once the originally subscribed period for Value Added Services and Special Tariff Vouchers is expired. The Hon’ble Commission during the hearing on 17.07.2013 concurred with the Statement of the appellant that Auto Renewal of Value Added Services and Special Tariff Packages is an unethical business practice. The appellant contended that TRAI be advised to issue definitive guidelines for the same for ethical business practices.

Accordingly, Hon’ble Commission ordered “TRAI must evolve clear and categorical guidelines in this matter in next 3 months’ time”. A copy of the order of Hon’ble Commission is attached for ready reference.

On the subject as mentioned above, please supply me the following information under RTI Act 2005:-

1.      Whether TRAI has framed any guidelines/regulations subsequent to CIC Order on Auto Renewal of Value Added Service and Special Tariff Packages.
2.      Please provide me the information whether the telecom companies have been mandated to seek explicit consent before automatically renewing the VAS and special tariff packages after the originally subscribed period for such services is expired.
3.      Please provide me the information as to whether this consent for auto renewal has to be in explicit manner as per respective regulations/guidelines.
4.      Please provide me a copy of the guidelines/regulations so framed or provide me the link of the URL where such guidelines/regulations are posted.
5.      Please provide me copy of the approval of the competent authority for framing guidelines/regulations on the above for seeking explicit consent of the subscriber before auto renewing the same after original subscribed period is over or otherwise."

CPIO, TRAI responded vide their No. 1(39)/2014-RTI dtd. 15/07/2014. The same is reroduced below:

विषय:- सूचना का अधिकार, 2005 के उपबंधों के अधीन सूचना प्रदान कनरे के लिए अनुरोध |


                कृपया वरिष्ठ अधीक्षक, डाक विभाग, नई दिल्ली, सेंट्रल डिविजन के दिनांक 12/06/2014 के पत्र सांख्या आरटीआई/एनडीसीडी/4 एपीपी फॉर/14-15 का संदर्भ ग्रहण करें, जिसमें सूचना का अधिकार अधिनियम 2005 के उपबंधों के अंतर्गत सूचना प्रदान करने के लिए आपके दिनांक 02/06/2014 के आवेदन पत्र को अंतरित किया गया है |

2. संदर्भित आवेदन पत्र के तहत मांगी सूचना परिशिष्ट-क के रूप मे सूचनार्थ संलग्न है |
3. सूचना का अधिकार अधिनियम, 2005 की धारा 19(1) के तहत "श्री सुरेश कुमार गुप्ता, प्रधान सलाहकार (सीए एण्ड क्यूओएस)", भारतीय दूरसंचार विनियामक प्राधिकरण, महानगर दूरसंचार भवन, जवाहरलाल नेहरू मार्ग, (पुराना मिंटो रोड), नई दिल्ली-110002 दूरभाष: 23216930, फॅक्स : 23235270” भा दू विप्रा में अपीलीय प्राधिकारी है |

  (वी. के. सक्सेना  सैना)
  केन्द्रीय लोक सूचना अधिकारी (लिंक अधिकारी)
दूरभाष : 011-23211622



Point No.
1 to 3 and 5
TRAI has received complaints of customers against auto-renewal of SMS and Data packs offered to them by Service Providers through Special Tariff Vouchers (STV) without their consent, after the expiry of the STVs. Based on examination of issues arising out of these complaints and consultations with Service Providers TRAI had issued the “Telecom Consumers Protection (Seventh Amendment) Regulations, 2013 dated 13th December, 2013” regarding STV pertaining to SMS or Data packs, having validity of more than 7 days, prescribing the procedure of obtaining explicit consent of the consumers for renewal and procedure for deactivation of the same.

This amendment regulation is not based on the CIC decision dated 17.07.2013.

In respect of VAS, the procedure for obtaining the explicit consent of consumers for activation of Value Added Services and procedure for deactivation of Value Added Services on the request of the consumers have already been prescribed in the various direction issued by the Authority.
The Telecom Consumers Protection (Seventh Amendment) Regulations, 2013 is available on TRAI website www.trai.gov.in URL http://www.trai.gov.in/content/VerReg/172 0 0.aspx
Analysis: TRAI regulations even as on date stipulates to put VAS on auto renewal and deactivate the same if the consumer do not wish to carry on. In view of 70% population being illiterate and under developed class, do you think the deactivation by such class of people is possible when 90% customers feel that VAS are being activated without their consent. It will not be wrong if I say 100% such unethical activation of VAS take place in prepaid connection and more than 95% consumers are having prepaid connections. Poor consumers are being exploited by such consumer unfriendly regulations and as usual there is some ulterior motives if unethical regulations are framed.

The following table as per TRAI report in relation to the above stated facts could be able to answer the question as to why TRAI is not interested in addressing VAS issues?

Total Activations, Deactivations and Complaints
Total Activation
Total Deactivation
%age of complaints alleging Activation w/o consent
January 2014- September 2014


1 comment:

  1. The only recourse available to us is to proceed legally or if a media house might pick up the issue and embarrass TRAI officials