New Delhi: Mobile users will get a compensation of Re 1 for every dropped call from January 1, even as the telecom operators cried foul saying the new rules can cost them nearly Rs 150 crore a day.
However, this compensation would be provided to a subscriber for a maximum three dropped calls in a day.
The new norms, announced today by the telecom regulator TRAI, follow a huge uproar over the menace of call drops.
Welcoming the TRAI's decision, which would be binding on the mobile operators, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad hoped that the companies would improve their services so that they do not have to pay the penalty.
"We welcome it and hope that it will go a long way in addressing the concerns of the consumers. I appeal again to all operators to address the issue seriously. I hope the issue of call drops will become a thing of the past at the earliest so that the penalty provision of the regulations will not be required to be invoked," Prasad said.
Announcing the compensation mechanism, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said the mobile operators will need to pay consumers Re 1 for every dropped call, subject to a maximum of three such calls in a day, with effect from January 1, 2016.
Under new rules, the operator will have to send a message to the customer within four hours of a dropped call with details of the amount credited to his or her account.
For post-paid customers, the details of the credit would need to be provided in the next bill.
The 'call drop' has been defined as "a voice call, which after being successfully established, is interrupted prior to its normal completion (and) the cause of early termination is within the network of the service provider".
The compensation would need to be paid to the calling customer who initiates such a voice call, TRAI said.
Disappointed with the new norms, the industry players said the new norms would result in a huge monetary outgo.
"We are very disappointed, we do not believe this is the right solution... There is lot of ambiguity arising from the proposed solutions," the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) Director General Rajan S Mathews said.
COAI estimated that the regulation may force the industry to shell out about Rs 150 crore every day even if half of the consumers in the country face this problem.
Mathews said the industry will approach the regulator to seek clarity on a host of issues and may even approach the appellate tribunal TDSAT against the TRAI's decision.
Amendments have been made by TRAI to its Telecom Consumers Protection Regulations to provide for the compensation.
As per TRAI's study, no operator is meeting the standards set by the regulator on call drops in Mumbai region. In Delhi region, only a few operators are meeting the benchmark while leading operators like Airtel and Vodafone are below-par on this front.
COAI's Mathews said the industry is hopeful to get a solution before the new rules come into effect on January 1. "... We are hoping to get together with TRAI... If they provide some clarity, then may be we can go ahead and implement the rules. But if we do not get clarity and the cost of implementing is so large then obviously one has to look at alternative areas of relief (by) perhaps approaching the TDSAT (Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal)," he said.
Mathews further said that TRAI has ignored various issues in framing the new rules and "if there is a problem in the network of the subscriber to whom the call is being made, then the company from whose network the call has originated can not be penalised".
TRAI is the view that the new regime would provide relief to customers to some extent and encourage the operators to improve their service quality.
Echoing similar views, Prasad said, "As far as the tariff is concerned, under the Trai Act, the regulator is the final authority. And once this regulation has been framed, this becomes law of land, binding on operators and the government.
"Therefore, we welcome it and we hope it will go a long way in addressing the concerns of consumers." The Minister appealed to all operators to address the
issue of call drops "very seriously".
"The Vodafone chief was here. I sensitised him... The Telecom Secretary has also spoken to all owners. My office is monitoring it. I hope the issue of call drops will become a thing of the past at the earliest," Prasad said.
Blaming lack of towers for the problem of call drops, Mathews said nearly 350 towers have been sealed in Delhi in the last three weeks and 100 in Mumbai in the last 4-5 months.
"How can you expect to resolve the call drop problem with local authorities sealing mobile towers?" he asked. He also said licence conditions do not mandate operators to provide 100 per cent coverage and also inside buildings.
"Even the licence doesn't require me to provide 100 per cent coverage so if these call drops happen on the uncovered areas. Why should I be penalised. Why should an operator compensate if call drop happens inside building?" he added.
He further said the regulator has not factored in the technological changes and cost burden on the industry that the new rules entail.