The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) today proposed radical changes to the existing billing patterns of SMS, value-added services, short-duration calls and premium-rate services.
In its consultation paper on billing issues, Trai proposed that subscribers pay the prescribed SMS charges only after the message is delivered.
The paper called upon service providers to build mechanisms to reject any SMS to an invalid number, as this would help reduce the incidence of non-delivery of messages and also ensure that subscribers were not charged for a service not availed of. An alternative floated by the paper is: charge an SMS in two parts – when it is sent successfully and when it is received.
On short-duration calls, the regulator noted that as high as 3 per cent of these calls dropped, resulting in subscribers being charged at flat rates for “no fault of theirs, but owing to the inefficiency of the network”.
The regulator’s proposals to address this issue included per-second billing and zero or nominal charge for small-duration calls.
“In India, considering the present network condition, the scope for drop calls immediately after the call matures, is higher. It seems that a practical alternative will be that calls up to 2-5 seconds duration may not be charged,” Trai said.
Another option is that, if a call is cut, and if the same number is redialled, then the operator refund up to a minute of chargeable time.
Trai also said that the clocks of different operators were not synchronised with a reference national clock, resulting in wrong billing in cases where tariff plan rates were based on the time of the day.
“It is proposed to discuss the issues with service providers and the telecom engineering centre, so that a common standard clock is identified for everyone,” the paper said.
The regulator also said it was examining other issues such as charging for value-added services and premium-rate services, where the responsibility of informing the operator that these services were not required remained with the subscriber.
Trai also said it was considering complaints that operators were not intimating their customers on their credit limits.
“On these issues, the authority proposes to issue suitable instructions and directives within a fortnight,” the paper said.
With an objective to bringing about standardisation and transparency in the procedures being followed by various operators, the paper also presented a code of practice for billing accuracy in India, with benchmarks for metering and billing.
The regulator sought comments, proposed changes on these benchmarks and wanted to know if the regime needed to be based on self-testing and reporting to Trai, or, implemented through approval bodies.
Trai invited responses from stakeholders on the issues raised by the consultation paper by the month-end.