Monday, June 15, 2009

TRAI toward cable TV tariff fixing

Moving in the direction of fixing tariff for cable TV services, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will shortly seek public opinion from all concerned, including viewers and consumer advocacy groups in the country as part of its pre-consultation process. Informing this at the second south-zone regional workshop on capacity building of consumer advocacy groups in Mysore, TRAI member R N Prabhakar said, “We are going to decide on a major issue relating to fixing tariff for cable TV services. As this involves complicated issues, TRAI would seek public opinion by issuing a questionnaire, which will be posted in its website also.”

The questionnaire would cover issues like whether wholesale, retail prices of TV channels should be fixed. If yes, the ceiling to be prescribed. Alternatively, should it be left under forbearance,that is, market forces. This would cover all the players in the TV cable services, broadcasters, multi-system operators who supply TV channels, and cable operators.
If under forbearance, then how the interests of consumers, cable operators and broadcasters is to be protected. If retail prices are to be fixed with or without ceiling, should it be uniform for the whole country or on a different yardstick and consumer affordability. While telecom services began with regulations, broadcasting services were not so and hence a number of basic issues are involved in cable TV services, Prabhakar pointed out. Calling upon consumer groups to work with TRAI in ensuring quality service in telecom and broadcasting services at a lower and affordable rate, he said the country was on par with developed countries in technology adoption. However, the issue was how to make the consumers aware of the changing phase of technology for using it effectively.

He explained to the consumer advocacy groups, network operators and telecom officials present on TRAI steps to improve the telecom services in the country, fundamental being telecom tariff. Referring to the three-phase consumer redressal mechanism, a TRAI survey revealed that the call- centre arrangement had started working reasonably well. However, awareness of the next two stages of complaint redressal - nodal officers and appellate authority was “very low”. He wondered why customers were not approaching the second and third stages, whether it was due to lack of awareness. Prabhakar called upon the service providers to assess the number and nature of complaints received by the call centres and inform the TRAI. He lamented that the regulation relating to unsolicited calls was not very successful. “Some people are hoodwinking these regulations. Therefore, suggestions are needed in this area too.”

Secretary Ravindra Nath Guru and Gopal Rao of Consumer Care Society, which had arranged the workshop, Muralidharan of CREAT, Bhamy V Shenoy of Mysore Grahaka Parishat, S P Thirumala Rao of Mysore Consumer Forum and consumer activists from southern states offered suggestions to improve telecom and broadcasting services. Service providers explained steps taken to implement TRAI orders, consumer education etc.

- Business Standard

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