The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued a new directive to all service providers, asking them to create and maintain service area-wise master tables of steps taken to configure the new number series within 30 days from the date of issue. TRAI stated that this directive seeks to address issues that emerged from the authority’s audit of metering and billing systems of telcos and take necessary corrective actions.

The regulator says it has observed several discrepancies when telcom operators failed to configure or wrongly configured a newly launched number series in its billing system, thereby leading to default charges for the consumer or the telcos had launched new tariff plans without configuring it properly within its billing system, which led to overcharging bills for the consumer.

TRAI added that it had also received several instances of consumers being overcharged due to incorrect number dialing such as pre-fixing ‘00’ or ‘+’ while making call or sending SMS to local or national numbers and it had noticed that the records related to wrong charging were not properly maintained with no specific details available like the date any specific problem started or was rectified by the telco, to judge the extent of the problem.

What Data Will This Master Table Contain?

TRAI stated that this newly created master table should contain details about various parameters like:

– Date of receipt of intimation about the new number series
– Configuration date of the new number series in the switch and in the billing system,
– Date when mistakes or problems are detected in the configuration and the date on which the problems were rectified.
– Total number of customers affected by the problem
– Total amount refunded and amount that couldn’t be refunded.
– Number of customers who were and were not refunded excess amount after the problem was rectified.

TRAI also directed telcos to create and maintain another service area-wise master table to record steps taken to configure new tariff plans to its customers which should contain:

– Name of the tariff plan or Special Tariff Voucher (STV).
– Launch date of the tariff plan or STV.
– Configuration date of the tariff plan or STV into the billing system.
– Date when mistakes or problems were detected in the configuration and the date on which the problems were rectified.
– Total number of customers affected by the problem
– Total amount refunded and amount that couldn’t be refunded.
– Number of customers who were and were not refunded excess amount after the problem was rectified.

TRAI added that each entry in both the master master tables should be verified by a telco-appointed official and it should be handed over to the auditors after verification, for auditing the telco’s metering and billing system purposes.

Failure to comply with Value Added Services directives

In another related development, the Hindu reports that the TRAI has pulled up mobile operators for failing to implement its directive on seeking explicit subscriber consent for activating and renewing Value Added Services (VAS) offerings. The regulator stated that it still receives consumer complaints pertaining to this issue, even an year after issuing the directive to telecom service providers where it had directed operators to obtain confirmation from the consumer through consumer originated SMS or e-mail or FAX or in writing within twenty four hours of activation of the value added service and charge the consumer only if the confirmation was received.

Quick Take (Nikhil adds)

It’s clear that the billing issues persist, and subscribers are being charged without permission, or customers are being sold connections plans without complete information being provided to them. Keeping detailed records is one way of trying to ensure that there aren’t any discrepancies. The TRAI directive on billing in VAS has still not been implemented, and we wonder why the TRAI isn’t penalizing telecom operators for this. We do agree that the directive could have been more practical, and asking users to email or FAX a confirmations is ridiculous, but getting user consent is important too.