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TRAI Issues Rules for Clear Communication of Tariff Plans, Terms by Telcos

Private telecom companies

Private telecom companies

Tightening the rules for telcos, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Friday issued directions on tariff publication and tariff advertisements.

Telecom regulator TRAI on Friday issued a fresh set of rules for publication and advertisement of tariff plans by telcos, in a bid to boost transparency in mobile offers and to help subscribers make informed decisions. The consumer-oriented move assumes significance as telecom subscribers often grapple with issues such as lack of information, unclear or hard to find plan details - a situation that affects subscribers' ability to make proper choices.

Tightening the rules for telcos, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Friday issued directions on tariff publication and tariff advertisements. "...it has been observed that existing measures adopted by telecom service providers are not transparent as they should be and that some of the telecom service providers are not prominently highlighting additional terms and conditions and are also collating the terms and conditions applicable to various tariffs on a single web-page and that the relevant information either gets lost in the maze of detail or becomes ambiguous and incomprehensible to consumers," TRAI directive said.

Overhauling the regulatory requirements in this regard, TRAI has now directed telcos to publish, service area wise - within 15 days - each tariff plan for postpaid and prepaid subscribers, and offer full information to subscribers at customer care centres, points of sales, retail outlets and websites, and apps with requisite disclosures. The "essential disclosures", mandated in TRAI's directive, include information on units/volume of voice, data and SMS, and its rates, limits of usage rates and speeds beyond entitled use.

Telcos will also have to transparently inform subscribers about upfront cost alongwith details like advance rentals, deposits, connection fee for postpaid services as well as top up, tariffs vouchers and others. TRAI asserted that "clear, unambiguous and easy to understand" disclosure also has to be made on the validity period of tariff plan and last date of bill payment. Other details that have to be transparently communicated to subscribers are specific inclusions made in the tariff plan.

Telcos are now also required to offer complete details of all charges that may be levied on consumers for usage of the said product, TRAI also asked telcos to disclose all promised service parameters such as data speeds in clear terms. Even details of 'Fair Usage Plan' will have to be communicated clearly. The regulator has also spelt out essential disclosures that have to be made in case of Special Tariff Vouchers, Combo Vouchers and Add on Packs, on similar lines.

TRAI said it had initiated the exercise in view of the changes in composition of tariff plans, over a period of time, which led to the possibility that consumers may be facing situations of lack of information, unclear or hard to find details - affecting their ability to make an informed choice. "...the authority, after due consideration of comments received from stakeholders, has arrived at a conclusion that the existing regulatory measures relating to publication of tariff plans need to be revised," it said.

Telcos have been asked to submit to TRAI a compliance report within 15 days. They will also have to ensure continued compliance by way of self-certificate by the 7th of the month after each quarter-end. On tariff advertisements, TRAI has directed telcos to prominently highlight additional terms and conditions and also provide a link to the norms for each of the offering, while disseminating tariff-related information, within the next 15 days.


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