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Telecom Watchdog Accuses Voda Idea, Airtel Of Anti-Consumer Practices

Non-profit group Telecom Watchdog questioned new minimum monthly recharge plans of Airtel and Vodafone Idea and charged the operators of indulging in “anti-consumer activities”. However, the the firms asserted that the plans are fully compliant with rules.

In a letter to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), Telecom Watchdog flagged concerns over the manner in which the two companies had allegedly fixed similar tariffs at the same time.

It claimed that forcing users to cough-up a minimum monthly amounts was like demanding a monthly rent “which is not the practice for pre-paid users”.

“We wish to bring to your kind notice an alarming situation under which two telecom operators – Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea – have once again resorted to anti-consumer activities. In total disregard to the regulatory principles, they have now unilaterally decided to terminate the services of subscribers within 15 days of the expiry of validity period of the “special tariff plan”,” Telecom Watchdog said in a letter to TRAI.

“All tariff plans of Bharti Airtel are in compliance with the applicable regulations. The matter raised by the TRAI, relating to the communication of the tariff plans to the consumers, has already been addressed,” an Airtel spokesperson said, reported the PTI. The spokesperson added the company did not wish to respond to “frivolous allegations”.

A Vodafone Idea spokesperson, too, categorically denied what it termed were levelling of “baseless allegations”. “Catering to the changing needs of consumers, Vodafone Idea has radically simplified its prepaid plans to enhance customer convenience. These plans are fully compliant to all applicable regulations and guidelines. We have rolled them out nationally and are actively communicating with customers, informing them of changes and helping them avail these new plans,” the Vodafone Idea spokesperson said.

News Today has already reported that Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea silently rolled out changes in their plans for existing customers. By the new regulations, customers will need to constantly recharge to avoid termination of their services.

By October-end Airtel had revised its plans which took away validity from its customers amounting to years. The news was confirmed by Airtel when News Today contacted it.

Experts stated that the move by Airtel was expected as the advent of Jio into the industry saw the average revenue per user (ARPU) plummet. The company’s ARPU as of March quarter was at Rs 116.

MD and CEO (India and South Asia), Bharti Airtel, Gopal Vittal, earlier this year had said pricing levels and ARPU have reached rock bottom and can only move up.

“I think we have hit the bottom in terms of ARPUs and pricing. I think both have to lift from here and given this industry structure it will lift. At the end of the day, we want a profitable and sustainable market share,” Vittal had said.

Telecom regulator TRAI had slammed operators who failed to duly inform subscribers within three days, the date on which the validity of an existing plan would expire and how they can opt for available plans.

“Till such time operators should not discontinue services of such customers who have balance in prepaid accounts equal to minimum recharge amount,” TRAI said.

Earlier this month, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea rolled out minimum recharge plans for users to boost their average revenue per user (ARPU) and focus on profitable customers.

2.0 and COAI
Telecom industry body COAI had earlier this week requested the Central Board Of Film Certification (CBFC) to revoke the certification of the Rajinikanth and Akshay Kumar starrer ‘2.0’, saying its trailers show mobile phones and towers in a bad light.

In a strongly worded letter to the CBFC, Lyca said the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) has “no rudimentary knowledge of law and film production” and “they appear to be a puppet in the hands of a rival film producer”.

“The theme of the film is not against development or mobile services, but against unregulated growth of mobile services. The objections of the COAI is bogus and empty and revolves around ‘no effect’ of electronics waves on human beings and commercial view of its members,” Lyca said in its letter.

Meanwhile, COAI Director General, Rajan S Mathews, said the filmmakers have clarified that the movie is fictional and not based on scientific evidence.

News Today Net

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