The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has amended the framework for auditing the metering and billing system of service providers as in the Quality of Service (Code of Practice for Metering and Billing Accuracy) Regulations, 2006, in an attempt to protect the interest of the consumers. The body has released its Quality of Service (Code of Practice for Metering and Billing Accuracy) (Amendment) Regulations. 

Service providers will now have to get their metering and billing system audited each year for basic and cellular mobile telephone services, in each service area, through any one of the auditors from the panel notified by the body. There will be an audit of call data records of one month of sample subscribers from the most popular plans, new plans, data plans and Special Tariff Vouchers in each quarter. This way, the audit will represent the entire year. In addition to this, there shall be a 'timely refund' of the overcharged amounts. 

Consumers may have to bear the brunt

TRAI introduces financial disincentives (Image credit: Getty Images)

The audit and action taken reports from the service providers will have to be submitted to TRAI every year by July 21 and November 15. Should there be any delay in the submission of the audit and action taken reports by the service providers, financial disincentives at the rate of Rs 100,000 per week will be levied. As for false or incomplete information in the action taken report, financial disincentives not more than Rs 1,000,000 per action taken report will be levied. 

In all instances of overcharging during the audit, the affected customers shall be offered the refund of the overcharged amounts within two months. Should there be a failure in meeting that target, the service provider shall be liable for financial disincentives equivalent to the overcharged amount. In addition to this, auditors will have to submit their monthly progress reports to TRAI detailing the refund of overcharged amounts to customers.

The regulation, which was issued in 2006, put forth a Code of Practice for metering and billing accuracy. It came with standards for metering and billing that the service providers had to comply with. It was done in an attempt to reduce instances of billing complaints and to protect the interests of the consumers. It included an annual audit system for the metering and billing system through one of the auditors notified by TRAI. It required service providers to submit audit reports by June 30 each year. 

The body had issued a consultation paper in November last year. In the paper, TRAI sought stakeholder comments on the proposals to introduce financial disincentives to deal with issues like: delays in submission of audit and action taken reports; false or incomplete audit and action taken reports; delays in offering refund of overcharges to affected consumers; and proposals to improve the quality of audit. After looking at all views that it received from stakeholders, TRAI introduced its latest amendment. 

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