The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued a Consultation Paper on “Transparency in Publishing of Tariff Offers”.
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Main objective of this consultation paper is to empower consumers by making all relevant information available to them and to eliminate instances of adverse choices made by consumers.
The authority published a consultation paper after receiving significant number of complaints from individual consumers on lack of transparency in disclosure of tariff information. The regulator said dynamics of the sector have been impacted in the recent past as it has undergone a phase of consolidation having implication on the competitive landscape.
Consumers generally face a situation of lack of information, misleading information, unclear or hard to find information, difficult to assess and compare which affects their ability to make an informed choice which best serves their needs.
TRAI said at the core of consumer protection lies the aspect of transparency in communication of conditions of provision of a service. So, it is felt that a comprehensive review of extant provisions aimed at transparency relating to flow of information from Telecom Service Providers to consumers is essential.
The Authority said the scope of the paper is limited to review of transparency requirements in communication of tariff offers by the service providers to the subscribers.
The regulator has floated a consultation paper with a set of 13 questions about bringing more transparency in publishing tariffs.
Issues for Consultation
Question 1: Whether TRAI should prescribe any format for publishing tariff? Please support your answer with rationale.
Question 2: If the answer to the Question 1 is yes, then please give your views regarding desirability of publishing tariffs on various modes of communication viz., TSP website/Portal, App, SMS, USSD message, Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Customer care centers, Sales outlets etc. If the answer to the question is that tariffs should be published on multiple channels as above, please state whether TRAI should prescribe a separate format for each channel. Please also suggest the essentials of the format for each channel.
Question 3: Whether the extant format prescribed for publishing tariff at TSP’s website conveys the relevant information to consumers in a simple yet effective manner? If no, please provide the possible ways in which the same can be made more effective?
Question 4: Whether the service providers be required to publish all the tariff offerings and vouchers in addition to the publishing of tariff plans, in the prescribed format? Please provide rationale for your response.
Question 5: Whether there is a need to mandate TSPs to introduce a tariff calculator tool to convey the effective cost of enrolment and continued subscription? If yes, what can be the essential features of such a tool? If the answer is in negative, then please give reasons for not mandating such a tool.
Question 6: Whether the service providers be asked to disclose clearly the implications of discontinuation of tariff plan after expiry of mandatory tariff protection period of six months on the provision of non-telecom services offered as a part of the bundle at the time of subscription to a particular plan? If yes, what should be the exact details that service providers may be required to provide in case of bundled offerings? If the answer is in negative, then please give reasons for not mandating such a disclosure.
Question 7: Whether the service providers be required to provide a declaration while reporting tariffs to TRAI and displaying tariffs through its various channels that there are no terms and conditions applicable to a tariff offering other than those disclosed here? Do we require additional measures to ensure that all the terms and conditions are clearly communicated to the subscribers and the Authority? If the answer to the above is yes, then please provide your suggestions in detail. If you do not agree with the above requirement, please provide detailed reasons for the same.
Question 8: Whether the service providers be required to publish details of all plans in the prescribed format including the plans not on offer for subscription but active otherwise? Please support your answer with rationale.
Question 9: Whether the service providers be required to update the information on point of sale and retail outlets simultaneously with the launch/change of a tariff offer?
Question 10: Whether the tariffs published in prescribed formats are displayed on websites of the service providers in an effective manner? If no, should the manner of display on website may also be prescribed by the Authority? If it is felt that the manner of display on website may be prescribed by the Authority, please give your views on the proposed display framework.
Question 11: What are your views on introduction of concept of unique id and requiring the service providers to link the tariff advertisements etc. with corresponding tariffs published in TRAI prescribed formats including requirements to publish dates of implementation of tariff and that of reporting of tariff. Do you think that any other safeguards need to be introduced? If yes, please elaborate. Please support your answer with rationale.
Question 12: Whether the proposed monitoring and compliance mechanism is enough to deter any violation of compliance with applicable regulations/directions. If no, please suggest further safeguards that may be introduced to ensure a robust monitoring and compliance mechanism.
Question 13: Any other issue relevant to the subject discussed in the consultation paper may be highlighted.
TRAI has invited all the Stakeholders to send their comments by 26th December 2019 and counter-comments, if any, may be submitted by 9th January 2020. It can also be sent to the e-mail id: email@example.com