Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has asked the top MSOs to allow users to change their packs and ensure that Local Cable Operators (LCOs) operating under them to provide itemized billing to customers and pay tax to the government.
According to TRAI, Cable TV subscribers have been facing difficulty in modifying their channel packs as operators like DEN Networks and GTPL KCBPL do not offer the facility of changing subscription packs and channels on their customer care portal. Due to this TRAI has asked all the above cable companies to fix the problems that have been pointed out.
TRAI also found that many cable operators who have not registered as taxpayers under the GST system collecting GST amount from subscribers by simply giving a cash memo saying they’ve received said amount from a user, instead of giving a printed and detailed bill without adhering to the GST norms.
These cable operators, who buy their feeds from providers like IndusInd Media, DEN Networks, Hathway and GTPL, do not deposit the collected tax with the government, TRAI said in its notice. TRAI asked the feed providers to ensure that their business partners deposited the tax collected.
While TRAI has dictated terms to MSOs, it remains to be seen how DPOs will be able to enforce some of these provisions such as itemized billing and tax compliance, given the limited leverage they have over LCOs.
As per the existing system, MSOs handle the process of collecting the satellite signals, processing and encrypting it and taking it to LCOs in cities and villages, while the local level distribution and collection of monthly charges are done by cable operators and they are free to change their upstream feed providers.
TRAI’s new tariff system requires cable operators to give itemized billing to customers. An itemized bill is one in which each of the separate items are clearly mentioned, along with the respective tariff structure. Under the new tariff regime, an itemized bill contains broadly three components, the network charge levied by the cable operator, the tax levied by the government and the pay channel charge levied by the channel owners or broadcasters. However, very few cable operators are providing such itemized bills.
Even in the more organized DTH business, customers do not get any such bill and have to log into the customer care portal to check out the various items contained in their monthly subscription amount. Moreover, DTH has never needed monthly bills as it works on the prepaid recharge model, while cable TV worked on the billing model.