Access service providers (ASPs) can offer combo vouchers now, following a directive by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India, called ‘The Telecom Consumer Protection (Fourth Amendment) Regulations, 2012’. Earlier, ASPs were allowed to offer three categories of vouchers, namely plan vouchers, top-ups and 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. 

New guidelines should put an end to pesky SMSes (Image credit: Getty Images)

Plan vouchers, top-ups, STVs and combo vouchers – Take your pick! (Image Credit: Getty Images)

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 Authority, therefore, decided to introduce combo vouchers through the Fourth Amendment to the TCPR. The TRAI, however 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.

Recent reports revealed that mobile operators will have to give suggestions to the TRAI on ways to tackle the issue of unsolicited messages, and they were given 15 days to comply.

The TRAI has been working towards the elimination of pesky SMSes since a while now, and this move is another step in that direction. In an open house discussion on the topic of unsolicited commercial communications (UCC) involving mobile operators, telemarketers, and consumer groups, TRAI Chairman, Rahul Khullar stated, “All of you have 15 days time (October 25)…You have to come back to me with any suggestions”. Khullar has further stated that if the mobile operators do not respond within 15 days with their suggestions, then the TRAI would have to decide on the matter. “I have a practical problem on my hand and I want practical solution,” he said. 

The TRAI has in the draft of the 'Telecom Commercial Communication Customer Preference (Tenth Amendment) Regulations, 2012' put forth that there be “disconnection of resources of entities for whom the promotion is being carried out after ten violations”. The revised regulations are expected to be released by November 5. The draft regulation asks providers to put in place a mechanism to block the delivery of unsolicited SMS “with similar signatures from the source which sends more than a specified number of promotional SMS per hour”.

Khullar asked the operators to offer suggestions pertaining to fixing the limit for promotional SMSs; technical solutions, which can be implemented to block such messages; and the costs involved in this.

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