TRAI issues rules for clear communication of tariff plans, terms by telcos

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NEW DELHI: The telecom regulator has directed phone companies to publish detailed accounts of all postpaid and prepaid tariff offerings, with comprehensive disclosures on upfront costs, usage limits and data speeds to ring in greater transparency around such communications and protect consumer interests.

All tariff-related communications, it said, must give details of the “units/volumes of voice, data and text messages” available under a plan, along with applicable rates, usage limits and details of non-telecom products such as music, content..etc that come with bundled offerings. Tariff-related disclosures, it added, would also need to come clean on throttled data speeds beyond the entitled data usage limits to ensure mobile users have complete clarity on this score.

Telecom service providers (TSPs) will need to make available “all postpaid and prepaid tariff plans, with the requisite disclosures, within 15 days at their customer service centres, retail outlets, websites and respective (corporate) mobile apps,” the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said in a direction Friday on ushering in transparency in tariff-related communications to consumers.

The regulator said “existing formats for publication of tariff information to consumers had become inadequate, especially with the proliferation of special tariff vouchers (STVs), combo vouchers (CVs) and add-on packs in addition to regular tariff plans,” which is why, the existing regulatory measures on publication of tariff plans needed to be revised.

The regulator has, accordingly, asked operators to clearly state all upfront costs such as advance rentals, deposits and connection fees for postpaid services. Further, it has mandated that they communicate the validity of a plan and bill payment deadline in a clear and unambiguous manner.

Further, the regulator has urged telcos to ensure all communications relating to STVs, CVs and add-on packs include details of the quantum and rates applicable of telecom products such as voice units, data and text messages along with usage allowances of non-telecom products (in case of bundled offers) and the charges applicable beyond the entitled levels of usage.

In a separate but related directive on tariff advertisements, Trai has asked telcos to “prominently highlight all additional terms and conditions” across tariff offers with links on their website and mobile apps within 15 days of Friday’s direction on this score.

“It has been observed that TSPs are not highlighting the additional terms and conditions, and are instead collating them on a single web page, wherein the relevant information is lost or becomes ambiguous and incomprehensible to consumers,” Trai said in its directive on tariff advertisements

Last November, Trai had issued a discussion paper to address the upsurge in complaints from individual consumers that prompted it to initiate a review aimed at boosting transparency in the publishing of tariff orders. It had said consumers, typically, have to grapple with lack of information or misleading information, which invariably affects their ability to make an informed choice.

Trai has mandated telcos to submit a compliance report within 15 days and a self-certificate of providing all communications at the end of each quarter this fiscal.



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