Telcos unite to block TRAI proposals to curb international roaming bill shock

Our Bureau. Mumbai | Updated on July 19, 2020

Mobile users have been complaining about receiving higher than expected bills on international roaming services

Say telecom operators must be left to decide how they want to provide better services

In a rare show of unity, telecom operators including Airtel, Vodafone Idea and Reliance Jio have opposed a move by the telecom regulator to bring in more measures to reduce bill shock while travelling overseas.

For the past many years, mobile users have been complaining about receiving higher-than-expected bills on international roaming services. Most of these complaints are primarily due to lack of awareness on the part of users. While mobile operators have introduced a number of measures to make users more aware of the tariffs and roaming data plans available, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India had proposed additional measures to bring more transparency.

But mobile operators reckon that they do not need regulatory intervention in this matter. “The Authority should refrain from venturing into the construct of the IMR packs as this would be tantamount to interfering with the freedom to innovate and would be averse to ease of doing business tenets,” Reliance Jio said in its response to a consultation paper floated by TRAI.

Equal interest

“While we appreciate the Authority’s concern on bill-shock related issues, we submit that the operators are equally concerned about the same and have equal or even more interest in keeping the high value international mobile roaming (IMR) customers happy and satisfied,”Jio added.

One of the suggestions made by TRAI is to prohibit operators from activating roaming services by default on every connection. Opposing this, Airtel said that there is no need to ban activation of roaming services on pre-paid connections.

“In the case of prepaid, the customer pre-pays the amount he/ she wishes to spend on telecom services. Every service, such as voice/ data/ SMS has a different rate for unit usage. The balance gets deducted on the basis of the actual usage incurred. The customer is immediately aware of the usage as well as the charges. Hence, all the services, including IMR services, are activated at the time of issuance of SIM,” Airtel said in its response to the consultation paper.

Airtel added that the majority of measures, proposed by TRAI, are already a part of the existing processes being followed by the operator and no additional regulatory intervention is required. “Any hard coding of the compliances in this regard may limit the operators’ ability to further improve upon the processes/ customer experience and should not be attempted if present measures are working efficiently,” it said.

Vodafone Idea added that it should be left to telecom operators to decide how they want to provide better services to customers. “We submit that regulatory mandate is not required. TRAI should consider any regulation if other measures have been given sufficient time to conclude that there is a persistent problem. There is no evidence given in the consultation paper that there is a persistent problem due to Indian telecom operators,” Vodafone Idea said.

Consumer groups back TRAI

Consumer groups have, however, backed the TRAI move. For example, the regulator has proposed to impose a cap on the bill. “Capping the amount that can be charged to the consumer in any situation, to the amount of the credit limit fixed by the telecom service providers for the subscriber or any other limit pre-agreed by the consumer at the time of activation of the IMR service, will go a long way in protecting the interest of the consumers,” said Bharat Jyoti Consumer Advocacy Group.

Published on July 19, 2020

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