Consumer's choice supreme, operators shouldn't interfere, says Trai chief

R S Sharma, Trai chief
Asserting that a consumer's choice is the ultimate, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Chief R S Sharma said any service operator’s interference in exercising that choice will be considered a violation of the regulatory framework.

However, Sharma stopped short of saying that errant operators will be penalised for doing so. He said Trai had received consumer complaints related to blackout (on one DTH platform), long duration packs and offerings for multiple TV connections, and the regulator was looking into the grievances and issuing suitable directions to operators.

“Consumers must have a choice... and interfering with their freedom is a violation of regulatory framework,” Sharma said.

Trai has also asked platform operators to revert, in two days, with special schemes and plans for households with multiple TV connections.

Trai has emphasised that players have to allow individual set top boxes (even within a same household) to have separate choice of channels, if the consumer wishes.

According to regulations, players can choose to offer discounts or even waive off network capacity fee on the subsequent connection. Trai said it was maintaining a close watch on the issue and will intervene, if required.

“There are certain concerns that had come to our notice and we have directed platform operators to address these issues. There were complaints that some platforms were not offering the freedom of choice to consumers as far as the first 100 channels are concerned,” Sharma said.

Contesting the claims of Crisil report, Trai chief said the consumers will see a drop in their monthly bills as market forces will come to play under the new tariff regime for broa­dcasting and cable services.

The regulator said data sourced by Trai separately from two operators showed prices were actually lower in places such as Mumbai, and Delhi compared to the previous regime.

Crisil in a report claimed that the new tariff regime will see a 25 per cent rise in cost per consumer. “Our analysis of the impact of the regulations indicates a varied impact on mon­thly TV bills. Based on current pricing, the monthly TV bill can go up by 25 per cent from Rs 230-240 to around Rs 300 per month for viewers who opt for the top 10 channels, but will come down for those who opt for the top five channels,” Crisil Sen­ior Director Sachin Gupta was quoted as saying in the report.

Trai Secretary S K Gupta assured that in the next three months the prices of various channels will come down. He added that the regulator has taken note of cases where some websites of operators were down due to heavy traffic, and has asked players to ensure that their websites were up and running.

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