Deficient service penalty on operators doubled amid call drops imbroglio

New Delhi: The government on Thursday doubled penalties for deficient services on cellular service providers as per new regulations announced by India’s telecom regulator while sources claimed guidelines on call drop would be coming soon.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), on its website, released new regulations termed ‘The standards of cellular mobile telephone service’ which says that an operator will now be fined up to Rs.1 lakh for first non-complince with benchmarks in a quarter compared to the previous penalty of Rs.50,000.

Cellular operators’ service is benchmarked on nearly 15 parameters that come under two heads – technical and customer care services.

Amidst the furore of call drops which comes under the technical category, the TRAI also said that non-compliance with the benchmark of the same parameter in two or more consecutive quarters will result in a penalty up to Rs.1.5 lakh and a fine up to Rs. 2 lakh can be levied for each consecutive contravention thereof.

In addition, it has clarified that the amount of fine will go back to Rs.1 lakh if the operator has met the benchmark of the parameter between two defaulting quarters.

Regarding call drops, both Finance Minister Arun Jaitley and Communication Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad had on Wednesday asked visiting Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao to address the call drop issue. Prasad said he had told Colao that “call drops need to be addressed and I want Vodafone to play a very proactive role”.

Souces from TRAI on Thursday claimed that new regulatory guidelines addressing call drops would be released soon. They further added that only three calls per day per customer will be refunded by the operator.

If what the sources say is implemented, companies like Airtel, Reliance and Idea will end up paying at least Rs.2.3 crore, Rs.1.9 crore and Rs.80 lakh respectively taking into account that only 10 percent of their subscriber base face only one call drop a day.

Airtel, Reliance and Idea have 23.29 crore, 10.99 crore and 8.33 crore subscribers respectively.

The sources however did not clarify the mechanism of identifying call drops.