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TDSAT Rejects Telcos Petition Against TRAI’s VAS Guidelines

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has dismissed telecom operators’ petition against TRAI’s order which directed them to take explicit consent from subscribers before activating value added services (VAS) on their mobile numbers, reports Press Trust Of India.

The report states that the tribunal has now provided three months to the operators to implement TRAI’s order on VAS, failing which the regulator TRAI will be allowed to take necessary action against these operators.

TRAI’s VAS Guidelines: In July 2012, TRAI had issued directions that telcos must seek explicit permission from subscribers through SMS, email, FAX or in writing within 24 hours of the activation of any value added service and charge the consumer only if the confirmation is received from him for such value added service, else the telco should discontinue such value added service for the consumer if no such confirmation was received, in cases where the services were being activated through an Out Bound Dialer or a service provider initiated call or during pre-call ring-back announcements.

It had also directed telcos to inform the consumer through SMS, the due date for renewal of any subscribed value added service, the renewal charges and a toll free telephone number for unsubscribing from the service, three days before the date of renewal. In case the subscriber had insufficient balance in his account, TRAI had directed telcos to seek for subscriber’s explicit consent for renewal through SMS.

TRAI had stated it has been receiving complaints from consumers about telcos renewing VAS products even when the available balance in the customer’s account is insufficient, resulting in negative balance and the regulator intends to check the activation of VAS products especially on prepaid mobile connections, without the customer’s explicit consent through these directions.

TDSAT Petition: Since these directions essentially meant that customers would have to go through multiple steps to activate value added services, it posed a challenge for both VAS players and telcos. In September 2012, telcos decided not to comply with these directions, and challenge them through a petition in TDSAT.

ISD Deactivation: In addition to this, telcos had also objected to TRAI’s order on ISD de-activation in September 2012, directing them to deactivate ISD services on pre-paid mobile connections in a bid to check misleading lottery winning or prize winning calls and Wangiri phone calls from International numbers, since subscribers were losing money calling back. The COAI (Cellular Operators Association of India) has stated that the TRAI order was irrational, unreasonable, arbitrary, illegal, and without application of mind, as indicated by the Economic Times report.

TDSAT had then asked TRAI not to take any action against telcos till a decision was taken, although it looks like the tribunal has now allowed (pdf) telcos’ appeal against TRAI for ISD de-activation.

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