Consumer rights activists propose ‘broadband labels’

TNN, April 16, 2017

Picture this. You pay in advance for a broadband plan and but it doesn’t deliver the promised bandwidth nor is the connection consistent. This is a familiar situation for many of us. With jobs and businesses growing increasingly dependent on internet connectivity, poor connectivity gets people in trouble. Recognizing this, consumer organizations across the country have called for standardized information labelling for internet service providers (ISPs).

City-based Consumer Education and Research Centre (CERC) is part of this nationwide initiative. The project, conceptualized by CUTS International, is a supported by TRAI and proposes to make it mandatory for ISPs to display labels stating average speed at peak and non-peak hours, data usage available, service contract, fixed and variable costs involved.

Misleading claims by ISPs are rampant. More than 30% of complaints CERC receives every month relate to internet connectivity. “Consumers often complain about low broadband speeds than what was advertised at the time of sale. Further, they are not informed of the actual speed of their connection and bandwidth when signing up for the service,” said Pritee Shah, chief general manager, CERC.

“Putting up this label clearly means ISPs are bound by a contract and are answerable to the consumers. Moreover, customers can make an informed decisions based on standardized information,” she added.

Broadband users have welcomed the move. Gauri Parikh, a resident of Bodakdev, said, “If this is implemented, it will be a relief because they will be accountable for their service. Apart from being inconsistent, the service is not even prompt. After making advance payments, we have to follow up at least five times for them to come and activate the connection. Besides, they will come at a random, odd hour, so I have to take leave from work.”

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