Numerous reports published today have indicated that telcos have resorted to tweaking their offerings on discount vouchers for prepaid customers across the country. In a bid to increase profit margins, mobile service providers seem to have reduced discounts and freebies. To get more clarity on the topic, we decided to get in touch with the popular players in the market. When we queried Idea Cellular about the recent news, a spokesperson told us that the company cannot confirm the changes to discount vouchers, and that the news is speculative at the moment. An Airtel spokesperson stated, “There is definitely room to reduce low value and free minutes in all markets across the country, given the state of telecom industry. However, Airtel will continue to be marked to market and provide value to its customers.” 


Changes underway (Image Credit: Getty Images)

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recently permitted access service providers (ASPs) to offer combo vouchers, as part of ‘The Telecom Consumer Protection (Fourth Amendment) Regulations, 2012’. 

Earlier, ASPs were allowed to offer three categories of vouchers, namely, plan vouchers, top-ups, and special tariff vouchers (STVs). Of late, however, several service providers and the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) have been demanding that a fourth category of vouchers be included, i.e., combo vouchers. These combo vouchers would make up an additional category of vouchers under the TCPR, offering both, monetary value and tariff concessions through a single voucher.

In the same vein, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) elaborates in its official notice that combo vouchers will sport a blue colour band, while top-up vouchers will sport a green colour one, making them easily distinguishable. 

In its official notice, the TRAI shared that such vouchers offered more flexibility to the service providers to “offer innovative bundling of the products based on market segmentation”. The TRAI believes that users will have the convenience to purchasing additional monetary value as well as well as get benefit of special tariffs through a single transaction.

The TRAI, therefore, decided to introduce combo vouchers through the Fourth Amendment to the TCPR. However, the TRAI is being very particular about ensuring that top-up vouchers are “clearly distinguishable to subscribers”. Top-up vouchers will be exclusively available in denomination of Rs 10 and its multiples. The combo vouchers will be available only in denomination other than Rs 10 and its multiples. 

Further, to enable consumers to be fully aware of the offer they are subscribing to, the combo vouchers will clearly state terms and conditions of offer. Service providers too have been directed to specify the availability of standalone top-up vouchers, whenever combo vouchers are spoken about at length.

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