The Telecoms Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has introduced hefty periodic fines for telcos that breach new regulations designed to reduce the number of billing complaints.
In a statement released to parliament on March 26, TRAI announced an amendment to the 2006 Code of Practice, which improved billing and metering accuracy primarily via an annual audit; and also required service providers to submit an audit report every June 30, and an audit response by September 30.
The amendment, "Quality of Service (Code of Practice for Metering and Billing Accuracy) (Amendment) Regulations, 2013," allows TRAI to penalize delayed submission of reports and responses (INR 100,000 or US$2,000 per week), false or incomplete information (INR 1 million or US$20,000 per report), and delayed refunds of overcharges to affected customers (in-kind penalties)--the latter will be policed in monthly reports.
The changes were first mooted in November 2012, open house discussions were held in Delhi in January, and the new regulations introduced in March.
According to the latest TRAI Performance Indicator Report released on January 11, in the middle of last year--specifically the two quarters spanning April to June and July to September--the quality of service of wireless postpaid metering and billing credibility, and of billing/charging/complaint resolution deteriorated; and prepaid metering and billing credibility did not improve.
In postpaid, the number of delinquents among the 229 licensees rose from six to ten, and the number that failed to resolve complaints jumped four-fold to nine telcos.
Aircel and Idea were the biggest offenders, while state-owned BSNL and TTSL did not report their billing figures.