The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has pronounced a “split verdict” in a case pertaining to a recent TRAI directive. The verdict comes after the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) approached the TDSAT in response to TRAI’s attempts to curb the menace of missed calls to prepaid users from ISD numbers. 

TDSAT Chairman, Justice S B Sinha was quoted as saying, “The Respondent (TRAI) even did not hold any consultation with regard to the question as to whether the prepaid customers and postpaid customers should be brought at par. In absence of such a question having been raised in the consultative process, it is difficult to hold that the 2006 Regulations would cover a situation of the present nature.” However, his point of view was not shared by P K Rastogi, a member of TDSAT bench. Rastogi was quoted as saying, “I have a different view point. Since there was no sufficient time for writing the judgement, I will be pronouncing the same separately later.”

Consumers may have to bear the brunt

TRAI's directive provisioned for consumer consent to ISD facility (Image Credit: Getty Images)

In September, the TRAI had issued a directive to all Access Service Providers (ASPs) providing ISD facility to prepaid mobile users. The regulatory body noted that it had been receiving complaints from prepaid mobile users being receiving missed calls and scam calls from international numbers, pertaining to winning prizes or lottery. TRAI 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.  

At the time, 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 has been in discussion with service providers and industry associations regarding this matter since October 2011. 

As per reports at the time, TRAI had directed tha 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.”

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