TRAI has released a consultation paper on issues related to quality of services in Digital Addressable Systems (DAS) and consumer protection. As per TRAI, in a DAS system, providing good quality service becomes important and a need arises to provide comprehensive Quality of Service (QoS) regulations for emerging platforms like HITS and IPTV.
TRAI terms QoS and QoE as the two most important aspects related to performance of communication services. QoS focuses on network performance parameters and their objective quantification as a set of service parameters whereas QoE focuses on user-perceived effects.
QoS issues include a consumer’s right to information relating to services such as subscription, maintenance, complaint redressal and consumer protection etc. With time the Indian broadcasting industry has evolved and many approaches can be adopted for ensuring QoS.
Here are some issues raised by TRAI in its recently released consultation paper.
Issues related to Quality of Service (QoS)
The TRAI paper suggests that customers should be given all relevant information regarding availability of various services provided by different operators. Information as to how to obtain a new connection should also be provided as it empowers customers to make informed decisions as per their individual preferences.
Distribution Platform Operators (DPOs) are expected to ensure utmost transparency with regard to dissemination of information regarding services being provided to their subscribers. Once a customer has decided to subscribe to a particular service, various options should be made available to him. The service provider needs to respond to a new connection request within a reasonable time frame.
The TRAI paper also highlights that since DTH is provided through a distributor and DTH being a pan India service may have to cater to remote areas. In such cases defining a tight time limit for provision of new connection may not be easily implementable on the ground. The TRAI paper further states that the Consumer Application Form (CAF) should capture all essential details of consumer and the services that are subscribed to and therefore be simple, readable and user friendly. TRAI has also noted that different DPOs are using different formats for CAF and sometimes even essential information is not adequately captured in the CAF. With its many short falls, TRAI has also asked if the use of an e-CAF should be introduced and implemented.
As per the paper, when a subscriber requires shifting of connection due to transfer or movement from one place to another, in such a case, the subscriber may request the DPO for shifting and installing the connection at the new location. The process of re-installing the connection at the new location may require re-examining the feasibility and subsequent similar steps as applicable to provision of a new connection.
In the case of a transfer subscribers may hand over the CPE and the connection to another person while moving out of a place of residence without informing the DPO. In this case, the information on the SMS becomes inaccurate. The subscriber may also opt to dump the CPE and this may result in creation of e-waste. Since in a digital addressable system the SMS is a centrally crucial system, capturing the accurate information is all the more important.
Since deactivation and re-activation of the service does involve an effort on the part of the DPO, they may argue that if such suspensions are permitted for a longer period, and at frequent intervals, then it may begin to affect their revenue estimation and business planning.
Issues related consumer protection
As per TRAI, the widespread availability of service related information helps in strengthening consumer awareness about complaint redressal process, rights and DPO’s obligations with regard to subscribed services.
Even though hundreds of TV channels and packages are available to a consumer to choose from combined with adequate regulatory provisions, but with poor consumer awareness and non- availability of adequate information, consumers often find it difficult to subscribe to services as per their choice.
TRAI’s regulation mandates that the DPOs must have their websites where all consumer centric information must be made available. Many DPOs have also implemented this provision. However, the information provided on some of DPO websites is either incomplete or not displayed in a user friendly manner. Consumers complain about the lack of ease in finding the relevant information on some websites as it is scattered over different links on multiple pages.
It has been observed that add on packages or active services are sometimes enabled for a subscriber without his knowledge and consent. This often leads to complaints and disputes as there are no provisions in the existing framework for recording a subscriber’s requests.
The TRAI paper has also highlighted that in case of DTH services, hundreds of service packages at different price points are provided to consumers whereas in case of cable services relatively limited numbers of packages have been made available.
It further states that given the fact that consumers do not have access to easy to follow procedures makes the process of new subscription or change in the composition of channels/bouquets a difficult process. TRAI has recommended development of mobile apps to further simplify such activity. In order to further resolve customer’s issues TRAI has also suggested starting a call centre, accessibility of the call centre may also be extended so as to provide for 24x7 services on a round-the-clock basis.