A Member of Parliament has written to Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, asking for the Indian telecom regulator TRAI’s directive on subscription to Mobile Value Added Services to be stalled. In the letter, a copy of which he mailed to MediaNama, the MP has said that he believes that though the TRAI is right in its intent of being pro-consumer and preventing exploitation of end consumer, but that the directive is partial and draconian in its approach.

He has questioned the regulatory body’s understanding of the provisioning of Value Added Services, asking how the TRAI can ask a mobile consumer to confirm a purchase of a service using ‘fax and email’, adding that English literacy in most states is abysmally low, and “less than 40% of even the mobile users as I am told have ever used the SMS as a channel for communication”

The MP has suggested that the TRAI should follow a consultative process, and invite stakeholders to draft a “fair, transparent and equitable environment”, and that regulations & directives cannot be a dictatorial affair. MediaNama called up the MP in question and was given permission to write about the letter.

Our take

The issues he has raised are correct – the TRAI should have taken a consultative route before finalizing an approach towards any directive on billing of subscription services, and the directive clearly ignores the needs of mobile users who do not know English.

However, there is little doubt that mobile users find that they have been subscribed to mobile services without their permission, and money is deducted from their remaining prepaid balance without their consent. For example, my mother doesn’t know how she was subscribed to Job Alerts. The telecom operators and many companies in the MVAS industry need to change the way they work – nothing can justify cheating consumers. Like Alok Mittal wrote earlier – time for real VAS?