More reports on: Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

Call drop penalty: HC questions Trai's logic

09 January 2016

The Delhi High Court on Thursday asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) whether its order making it mandatory for cellular operators to compensate subscribers for call drops was the "only solution" to reduce call drops.

A division bench of Chief Justice G. Rohini and Justice Jayant Nath asked the sector regulator if it had considered all the objections raised by the telecom operators before passing the 16 October order.

"The objection of the service provider does not reflect on the measures taken. Where is the application of mind? Was it the only solution?" the bench asked as it heard the plea of telecom operators for a stay on Trai's compensation policy for call drops, under which a rupee will be credited to the mobile users' account for every call drop (restricted to three per day) starting 1 January 2016.

Cellphone operators have however refused to implement the order while the matter is in court.

Earlier, Trai had told the court that it will not take coercive steps against telecom companies for not complying with the call drop compensation norms till 6 January.

On Thursday, the court did not pass any interim order, saying if service providers begin compensating consumers for call drops as per the new Trai regulations, it won't be possible to recover the money if the rule was set aside in future.

Additional Solicitor General PS Narasimha, appearing for Trai, said the order was taken after consumers began facing regular call drops. He said the telecom companies have not made enough investment on technology and infrastructure, which could prevent call drops.

In first quarter of 2015, about 25,787 crore outgoing call were made, out of which in 200 crore cases of call drops were encountered by consumers. This is 0.77 per cent of all call made, Narasimha told the court, adding that service provider made about Rs36,781 crore during the period.

He further clarified that call drop compensation is applicable only when it has occurred from the call originator's network.

"We treated the compensation as a nominal penalty, so that they fall in line. That's why we kept it at only three calls. But consumers are asking to be compensated for all call drops," Narasimha said.

Senior advocate Abhishek Manu Singhvi, appearing for the telecom operators, argued that under the Quality of Service regulations, two per cent of call drops are exempted from penalty. He also said that most cases of call drops were not because of the fault of the service providers as they have been facing difficulties in setting up new towers due to opposition from various fronts.

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