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TRAI asks telcos to keep international roaming services inactive by default

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Wednesday released amended rules for international mobile roaming, mandating telecom operators to ensure such services are deactivated by default and are activated only when consumers ask for it.

Once activated, the services can be discontinued on consumers’ request, the telecom regulator said in the amended regulations, which will be effective after thirty days from the date of public notification of the same.

In this regard, TRAI has issued Telecom Consumers Protection (11th Amendment) Regulations 2020 after consultation with stakeholders.

TRAI in May had floated a consultation paper on ‘Regulation of International Mobile Roaming Services’, highlighting several issues that lead to bill shocks to consumers on international roaming.

Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd, Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Idea Ltd had recommended that international roaming charges should not be regulated and any intervention by TRAI may limit the scope of improvement in these services given the complex structure of such tariffs involving deals and negotiations with many foreign operators.

The latest amendments will be inserted as the sixth chapter–measures to protect consumers from bill shocks while using international mobile roaming service—in the regulations.

TRAI said the existing consumers using international roaming can carry on or deactivate the services through SMS, e-mail or mobile app within thirty days of public notification of the rules.

Telecom service providers (TSPs) will also inform consumers as soon as international mobile roaming is activated. Telcos, through SMS, e-mail or mobile app, will have to notify consumers the activation and the applicable tariff, one-time or recurring, of the services.

The regulator also asked mobile operators to inform consumers about the applicable rates on voice, SMS and data services, and details of carriers in the visiting countries that need to selected for activation of services. Consumers will also know about the precautions to be taken to avoid bill shocks while on international roaming.

One of the issues raised in the consultation paper was the significant divergence between standard rates and pack tariffs, which are not a part of the amended regulations.

While Reliance Jio was is in favour of rationalizing the huge differences between standard rates and pack tariffs offered under international mobile roaming, Airtel and Vodafone Idea were of the view it may impact the interest of consumers.

For instance, telcos offer standard rate of ₹90 per minute for incoming calls while roaming in the US and calls to India cost ₹180 per minute. But one-day pack with unlimited incoming calls and 100 minutes of calls to India is being offered at ₹575, TRAI had said in its consultation paper. Live Mint

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