Men talk on mobile phones outside a store in Mumbai, India. (Photographer: Dhiraj Singh/Bloomberg)

TRAI Asks Operators Not To Snap Services Of Customers With Enough Balance

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India directed operators not to immediately disconnect services of customers with “sufficient” prepaid balance as it took strong note of telecom companies asking such users to go in for mandatory monthly recharge plan.

The telecom regulator came down heavily on the operators after it received complaints from subscribers that they were being sent text messages to “mandatorily” recharge their prepaid accounts to continue to avail services.

These subscribers rued that the messages are being sent despite their prepaid accounts having “sufficient balance.”

Tariff and plans are under forbearance and we don’t generally intervene. But if there is sufficient money in the account and despite that people are being told that the services will be disconnected, it is not correct.
RS Sharma, Chairman, TRAI

The directive in this regard has gone out to operators on Tuesday, he added. TRAI met operators earlier this week and is examining the issue in its entirety.

In the meantime, it has asked operators to “duly inform subscribers in a clear and transparent manner the date on which the current validity of existing plan would expire and the manner in which the subscriber can opt for the available plans, including minimum recharge plan using subscriber’s available prepaid account balance or otherwise”.

It also asked operators to provide all this information to subscribers through SMS immediately and “not later than 72 hours”.

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TRAI, in its directive to operators said, “Till such time, services of such customers who have balance in prepaid accounts equal to minimum recharge amount, should not be discontinued.”

The telecom sector has been bruised by falling tariffs, eroding profitability, and mounting debt in the face of stiff competition triggered by disruptive offerings of Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.

Two of the largest operators—Bharti Airtel Ltd. and Vodafone Idea Ltd.—are looking to boost their revenue realisation per user and have announced minimum monthly recharge plans starting from Rs 35.