A GSM players' lobby group, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has come forth in response to a recent attempt by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to curb the menace of missed calls to prepaid users from ISD numbers. COAI has approached the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) with its plea challenging TRAI. A TDSAT bench comprising its head, Chairman Justice S B Sinha, has admitted the plea and a hearing is now scheduled for October 8. 

Porting worries! (Image credit: Getty Images)

COAI approaches TDSAT with a plea (Image credit: Getty Images)

This month, the TRAI had issued a directive to all Access Service Providers (ASPs) providing ISD facility to prepaid mobile users. TRAI noted that it had been receiving complaints from prepaid mobile users that they are subjected to the menace of missed calls and scam calls from international numbers pertaining to winning prizes or lottery. The body further noted that these missed calls and scam calls were often from premium numbers, which charged high tariffs. The TRAI also stressed that the ASPs issue an advisory to consumers via SMS at periodic intervals.  

The TRAI has been in discussion with service providers and industry associations regarding this matter since October 2011. The TRAI has been seeking a way to implement measures to control the menace of missed calls. As per the new directive, TRAI believes that some miscreants have been taking the advantage of the ISD facility that has been provided on prepaid cellular mobile telephone service numbers by prodding consumers to unknowingly make ISD calls.

The TRAI directed ASPs to ensure that ISD facility is not activated on prepaid SIM without the consent of the consumer. Prepaid consumers having access to the ISD facility had to be informed through SMS in less than 10 days of date of issue of the directive that the ISD facility to them shall be discontinued after 60 days. Should a consumer wish to continue using the ISD facility, then he or she had to give their explicit consent to avail this facility within 60 days of receiving the SMS. 

The TRAI added that those failing to give their explicit consent to continue using ISD services after 60 days of receiving the SMS, would have their services discontinued. 

The directive also said that within 10 days of the its issue, all prepaid consumers should be informed via SMS that they should not respond to missed calls from unknown international numbers, i.e., numbers with a prefix other than '+91' or other calls pertaining to winning prizes or lottery. According to this directive, consumers need to be sent these SMSes every six months. 

Lastly, the directive sought an easy and transparent opt-in and opt-out facility to the consumers of the cellular mobile telephone service for activating or deactivating ISD facility.

In its petition to the telecom tribunal, COAI has referred to TRAI’s directive as being “irrational, unreasonable, arbitrary, illegal, and without application of mind”. In its plea, the COAI went on to add further that, “The telecom regulator has directed all operators to take far excessive, disproportionate and retrograde steps to address a far less problems of missed calls from abroad, without even considering.”

Reportedly, the TDSAT has also asked the TRAI to not take any forcible action against operators. It has also issued a notice to the TRAI directing it to file a reply.

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