Telecom issues: consumer groups move apex court

Business Line, May 13, 2016

With the telecom regulator failing to legally defend its regulation on call drops, consumer groups have filed an appeal for forming a separate consumer grievance redress forum.

The proposed telecom ombudsman will be responsible for addressing individual customer complaints, with the independence and internal structure that TRAI does not currently possess.

The move is being led by the Federation of Consumer and Service Organisations, a Tiruchi-based consumer group, which has filed an appeal with TRAI and the Supreme Court.

Other consumer groups, including Consumer Unity and Trust Society as well as Voluntary Organisation in Interest of Consumer Education, have thrown their weight behind the proposal.

Existing regulation

Under the existing regulation, the telecom regulator has set up a two-tier complaint redressal mechanism comprising the call centre at the first level and an appellate authority at the next. TRAI has also provided for a two-member advisory committee that vet all the complaints received by the appellate authority and gives its recommendations.

“The Telecom Consumer Grievance Redressal System is very weak in our country. At present, the service providers themselves are having their own system to redress… But they are not redressing the grievances,” said M Sekaran, President, Federation of Consumer and Service Organisations.

TRAI has allowed operators to set up the entire system. So, the call centre or complaint centre will be set up by the operator, the appellate authority will be appointed by the operator and the two members for the advisory committee will also be chosen by the telecom company. Consumer groups said the existing system is ineffective and, therefore, there was a need for an independent ombudsman.

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