Airtel, Jio, Vi, BSNL Will Now Offer 30-Days Validity Plans For All Users: TRAI Order

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has dictated telcos to have at least one tariff plan which allows a recharge validity of 30 days, in a departure from its longstanding policy of forbearance on tariffs.

New mandates by Trai to telecommunication providers
Changing the telecommunication order of 1999, Trai on Thursday said that every telecom service provider should offer at least one plan voucher, one special tariff voucher and one combo voucher that has the validity of thirty days.

The clause has further added that every service provider must also offer at least one plan voucher, one special tariff voucher and one combo voucher which will have to be renewed on the same date every month.

New mandates will be more consumer-friendly
The regulator has explained that this move is going to be consumer-friendly and that after this amendment, telecom subscribers are going to have more options to choose service offers of an appropriate validity and duration. This would also help consumers in making better informed tariff-related choices.

The stakeholders’ response
Trai floated a consultation paper last year in May, asking all the stakeholders whether it should intervene in the matter. The regulator has said it has received a significant number of complaints from consumers saying they had to recharge their phones 13 times a year for ‘monthly plans’ and this was making them feel cheated.

Detailing the responses of the telcos and other stakeholders, the regulator said that the views of the stakeholders are very divisive with service providers restating their preference for continuing the present regime with regard to the validity period of tariff offer.

On the other hand, consumer advocacy groups, consultancy organizations and individual customers are of the view that in addition to mandating 30 days tariff offering, a monthly tariff offering rechargeable on the same date of each month should be provided as well.

The regulator has cited international operators. Vodafone in the UK and Verizon in the US have monthly prepaid plans regardless of how many days there are in a month. There is no reason why such a facility should not be made available to Indian telecom consumers as well, Trai said.

The telcos has opposed the proposal floated by the regulator because of other factors.

Vodafone Idea has expressed that any change to the existing 28 days or 54 days or 84 days is going to hinder the billing cycle, and need huge efforts towards consumer awareness and retail channel education at the operator’s end. Reliance Jio Infocomm has agreed to a 30 day recharge, but had also said, “tariffs wherein the customer is required to recharge on the same day every month with the same fixed amount is not technically possible, as this is primarily a postpaid structure.”

Airtel however had argued the point that a huge percentage of prepaid customers are from a very low-income group and justified their 28-day recharge saying, “A 28 days validity for such a section of society means they budget their usage on a weekly basis which helps in managing their mobile expenses in a better and organized way.”

It also said that mandating a tariff offer with the specific validity of 30 days or a month with requirement of tariff to be renewed only on the same date of each month, might not be of any value to a prepaid customer whose recharge preferences might not even change by introduction of such an offering.

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