In response to consumer grievances, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued a notification seeking comments from Multiple System Operators (MSOs) and Local Cable Operators (LCOs) who are not complying with TRAI norms.
On May 14, 2012, TRAI had issued the ‘Standards of Quality of Service Regulations 2012', laying down norms for quality of services through the Digital Addressable System (DAS), which is being implemented in the country in four phases. The cut off dates for Phase I and II are already over in which 42 major cities have been covered.
The regulations laid down, amongst other quality of service norms, the norms for billing subscribers. Chapter VI of the regulations – regulations 14, 15 and 16 in particular, amongst others – prescribe payment options, billing subscribers with usage and other details, and issuing a receipt for every payment made by a subscriber.
However, TRAI has received complaints where subscribers reported that they are not getting the bills for the subscribed cable TV services, or proper receipts for payments, or both.
In the latest notification, TRAI notes that the prescribed norms are not being complied with by the MSOs and their linked LCOs, resulting in consumer grievances. For example, without a receipt a consumer has no means for redressal in case of quality of service-related grievances such as billing-related disputes with the operators.
Also, because of LCOs not complying with norms on delivery of bills and receipts, details of actual subscription vis-a-vis the payments are not being entered into the subscriber management system of the MSOs. Consequently, the deals and the financial transactions amongst the operators are not being carried out transparently.
This has proved to be a major road block, resulted in disputes amongst the MSOs and their linked LCOs, and is also affecting smooth implementation of DAS as mandated by law.
To protect the interest of the consumer, ensure transparent business practices and promote efficiency in the operation of cable TV services, TRAI now purposes to amend the regulations to incorporate provisions of levying financial disincentives on non-compliant MSOs and LCOs.
Therefore TRAI has solicited comments from stakeholders on the draft regulations.
Per the regulations, a cable operator needs to add applicable taxes – such as service tax, entertainment tax, etc. – in the bill to its subscribers. Proper billing and accounting of receipts is also necessary for verification and auditing to ensure the cable operator pays the right amount of tax to the government.