The ball is in parliament’s court.

Caught between courts and telcos No relief for customers from call drops menacePTI/ Representational image
news Wednesday, May 11, 2016 - 17:11

In a setback to consumers, the Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down a Delhi High Court order in this January which endorsed TRAI’s directive on telecom companies to provide compensation for call drops, calling it "unconstitutional, non-transparent and arbitrary “.

The apex court, however, had said that the parliament can enact a rule solely for the purpose on Wednesday hearing an appeal filed by COAI, a body of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India and 21 telecom operators, including Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and Reliance.

With this the legal battle between the TRAI and telcos ended since December last year, the ball is in parliament’s court.

The matter was first under the observation of the Delhi High Court and later appealed in the supreme court

What has TRAI said so far?

On October 16, 2015 TRAI made it mandatory for cellular operators to pay consumers Re 1 per call drop experienced on their networks, subject to a cap of Rs 3 a day.

The regulatory body had told the court that it has to safeguard 100 crore telecom subscribers and if companies agree to compensate call drops with equal number of free calls to consumers without pre-conditions then it is open to re- consider its direction imposing penalty on them.

TRAI during the court proceedings told the apex court that it will take action against the Telcos for call drops to protect the interest of consumers as these service providers are not willing to compensate them.

 It had also told the court that a "cartel" of 4-5 telecom firms having a billion subscribers are making Rs 250 crore a day but not investing on their network to improve services to check call drops.

Even in December, none of the telecom operators showed improvement in call drops in Mumbai, Pune and Bhubaneswar, a TRAI report said.

What have Telcos said so far?

Refuting TRAI’s stand on not making investments on call drops, the counsel for telcos on Wednesday said in past 15 months over two lakh towers have been installed.

Earlier refuting the allegations of making huge profits, telcos had said the entire sector is under huge debt and they have to pay a big price for spectrum, therefore, zero tolerance on call drops should not be imposed on them.

They had even said phones bought from grey market at low prices was also a part of the problem.

What the govt has said so far?

The government has consistently backed TRAI’s stand on this and had advocated for compensation of users for call drops and even said TRAI had legal powers to implement the regulation.

 In March this year, the telecom minister had said that he himself would go for drives personally to check the ‘menace’ of call drops in the national capital region after carrying drive tests in Indore.  

 (with PTI inputs)

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