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Can telecom companies charge for ‘free’ video services?

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Nov 28, 2019, 11.35 AM IST
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Agencies
Mobile usage
Among the various issues that Trai is looking into, a key area relates to provision of non-telecom services that are currently bundled free of cost within many plans, but may be cancelled if the operator decides to discontinue the scheme.

Highlights

  • Non-telecom services that are currently bundled free of cost within many plans, but may be cancelled if the operator decides to discontinue the scheme
  • For example, a free one-year subscription of Amazon Prime may stand cancelled if the operator decides to change/cancel the tariff plan after six months, the minimum period required for any tariff plan
(This story originally appeared in on Nov 27, 2019)
NEW DELHI: Can your mobile operator discontinue the free subscription offers to movie and music streaming services if it decides to revise your bundled tariff plan?

Regulator Trai is taking a serious view of this and many other consumer issues as part of efforts to drive in transparency in tariffs offered by mobile operators to their subscribers, especially in view of rising consumer complaints about misleading information in telecom ads.


The regulator issued a consultation paper on ‘Transparency in Publishing of Tariff Offers’, and the main aim of the paper – to which preliminary comments are sought by December 26 – is to broaden the consumer disclosures that companies make while pitching plans in the market.

“… the Authority has been intermittently receiving a significant number of complaints from individual consumers which though varied can be said to be rooted in lack of transparency in disclosure of tariff information,” Trai said, adding that the extent and nature of complaints “also point to the inadequacy of existing regulatory framework.”

Among the various issues that Trai is looking into, a key area relates to provision of non-telecom services that are currently bundled free of cost within many plans, but may be cancelled if the operator decides to discontinue the scheme. For example, a free one-year subscription of Amazon Prime may stand cancelled if the operator decides to change/cancel the tariff plan after six months, the minimum period required for any tariff plan.


“Many complaints have been received regarding the charges being imposed on the customers after the free subscription period (if offered) of such service to customers is over … If the tariff plan offers a free subscription of certain service for a period exceeding six months and the service provider proposes to change the tariff or discontinues the tariff plan after six months, the subscriber runs the risk of losing the remaining free subscription period if he does not agree to the revised tariff or exercise option to migrate to the plan offered. How such situations will be handled is another important informational requirement to ensure protection of consumer interest.”
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