Consumer groups object to TRAI’s proposed changes for consumer organisation registration

StoryBoard18, November 6, 2023

Consumer advocacy groups have raised objections to a proposal by the telecom regulator to introduce changes in regulations for registered consumer organizations. Several consumer groups have submitted letters to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) outlining their reservations about the suggested changes.

The Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS), in its submission to TRAI, highlighted concerns about Rule 5(1)(b), which mandates that a consumer organization must be a non-profit and non-political entity to qualify for registration with TRAI. CUTS emphasized the evolving complexity in defining what constitutes a non-political organization, particularly in the digital age where actions like addressing digital exclusion could be viewed through a political lens. They recommended establishing clear criteria to determine non-political status, facilitating effective engagement and participation.

Additionally, CUTS drew attention to Rule 5(1)(c), which requires a consumer organization to have a minimum of three years of experience in various activities related to consumer advocacy and research. They suggested reconsidering the equal weight assigned to each condition, proposing flexibility in meeting one or more conditions to improve regulatory adherence.

“It is advisable to reduce the requirement to one year and with the experience in ‘one or more’ such activities,” they said in their submission to TRAI.

Another group, Graham Shakti, expressed reservations about the authority’s discretion to decide the number of registered organizations at national, state, or union territory levels. They argued that defining criteria for national or jurisdictional classification lacked appropriateness and clarity.

There were twelve mixed response comments. One among them was Consumer VOICE welcomed the proposal for expanding the Consumer Advocacy Groups (CAGs) but urged TRAI to focus on empowering existing CAGs before implementing new regulations.

“We suggest that before these regulations are implemented, TRAI should work towards empowering present registered CAGs both technically and financially by hand holding them towards growing their organisation capabilities in terms of number of persons involved (including some permanent volunteer employees), reach and scope,” they said in the comments.

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