The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India has directed Idea Cellular to deposit Rs2.97 crore for over-charging its subscribers for making calls to networks of state-owned firms Bharat Sanchar Nigam Ltd (BSNL) and Mahanagar Telephone Nigam Ltd (MTNL).
The amount is to be deposited in the Telecom Consumers Education and Protection Fund (TCEPF) as Idea would not be able to make the refund to subscribers in view of non-availability of the rated call data records.
Trai said the country's third-largest telecom operator had collected the amount by overcharging its subscribers in four states during May 2005 to January 2007.
In May 2005, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) had amended licences to permit inter-service area connectivity among telecom operators within four states - Maharashtra, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu and Uttar Pradesh. As per the amendment, calls within each of these states were treated as intra-service area (or local) calls for the purpose of call routing and levy of access deficit charge.
Trai said that despite the amendment, several private GSM operators were charging higher rates for calls terminating on network of state-run firms BSNL and MTNL compared to calls made on network of private operators within the boundary of these states, which after examination by the regulator was found to be ''discriminatory and inconsistent with the amended licence conditions''.
Subsequently, in February 2006, operators were instructed to discontinue differential tariffs. This was challenged by the operators and industry body COAI in the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), but their appeal was dismissed in December 2006. COAl and some operators then filed a civil appeal before the Supreme Court challenging the TDSAT order, which was dismissed by the apex court in January 2015.
''...The Authority hereby directs Idea to deposit the amount of Rs2,97,90,173 charged in excess from its subscribers during the period from May 2005 to January 2007, as computed by Idea, in TCEPF and report compliance within 15 days of issue of this direction,'' said the order dated 24 August 2017 and signed by Trai's adviser S T Abbas.