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Trai washes its hands off Cable TV subscriber data disputes

20-February-2004
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Trai washes its hands off Cable TV subscriber data disputes

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has said that it can’t deal with individual consumer complaints or even disputes related to subscriber numbers in the cable and broadcasting industry. This was part of the Trai clarification, issued on Thursday, on the Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services Tariff Order 2004, in reply to stakeholders’ queries.

“The redressal mechanism for individual subscribers/ consumers is available before a Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum or a Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission or the National Consumer Redressal Commission established under Section 9 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 (68 of 1986),” it said. Trai got the additional responsibility of regulating the cable and broadcasting industry recently.

Another significant clarification was related to the number of subscribers, often a controversial issue between broadcasters and cable service providers. While broadcasters demand higher subscriber declaration from the cable fraternity, cable operators complain about over-pricing by broadcasters and thereby justify lower declarations. But, in the case of a dispute related to subscriber numbers, “The remedy would lie in a civil court; Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), under Section 14 of the Trai Act,” according to the clarification, which has upset cable operators.

The issue of pricing has also been included in the Trai statement. “If the agreement (between broadcasters and multi-system operators (MSOs), and between MSOs and cable operators) applicable as on December 26, 2003, specified the total amount as rate or charge per subscriber, multiplied by the subscriber base, the ceiling applies to the per subscriber charge and not to the subscriber base.”

Trai has reiterated that the tariff order would cover the entire country, both for areas under the conditional access system (CAS) and non-CAS regions. It has also stated that “charges” mean and include the charges/tariff rates payable by one party to the other by virtue of the formal/informal agreement prevalent on December 26, 2003, the date when the Delhi High Court had ordered implementation of CAS in the first zone of Delhi.

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