The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has prescribed a Re1 compensation to consumers for every lost calls, in bid to bring down call-drop rates and improve service quality.
The telecom regulator on Thursday also raised the penalty on telecom operators to up to Rs2 lakh for poor mobile service quality, including call drops.
The penalty amount would be as high as Rs2 lakh if the operators are unable to meet the benchmark set for the quality of service in two or more subsequent quarters, Trai said.
The penalty will kick-in if call drops in a quarter average more than 2 per cent of the total traffic in a telecom circle.
"The proportion of non-compliance in case of customer related parameters are more than that of network related parameters. Hence the Authority has decided to impose identical structure of financial disincentive in both cases," Trai said in a release.
As per the rules, call drop, availability of mobile towers, time taken for a call to connect, network congestion, voice quality and network related issues feature in the Trai's service quality parameters.
Consumer-related issues include complaint redressal, refund of wrongly charged money, access to call centre etc.
As per existing norms, there is a penalty provision of up to Rs50,000 for the first violation and Rs1 lakh for subsequent failures in case of network related quality parameters. However, with regard to consumer-related issues, the penalty was capped at Rs50,000 for each violation.
Now for the first time violation of service quality benchmark, the fine has been increased to Rs1 lakh. If telecom operators still fail to meet the benchmark on the same parameter, a penalty of up to Rs1.5 lakh for the second violation and Rs2 lakh thereafter.
"The Authority feels that these measures will act as a sufficient deterrent against prolonged non-compliance and will further improve the quality of service in a time-bound manner," the regulator said.
Trai will soon notify a compensation of Rs1 for every call drop. Consumers will be compensated for up to a maximum of Rs3 a day even if call drops exceed three a day.
Consumers will become eligible for getting compensation for lost calls once Trai notifies the new consumer protection regulations.
The problem with call drops is that consumers continue to pay for lost or truncated calls while service providers continue to charge consumers for broken service.
Trai, which has done surveys in Delhi and Mumbai to ascertain the issue of call-drops, has found that service quality continues to be a cause of concern.
In its report published on Thursday `Audit and Assessment of Quality of Service of service providers through independent agencies for Cellular Mobile Telephone Services, Basic Services and Broadband Services', Trai has found that 'the results showed unsatisfactory network quality'.
''In Mumbai none of the operators are meeting the prescribed benchmark, there is marginal improvement in some of the operators, while in Delhi some of the operators have improved the benchmark and three operators are still not meeting the benchmark,'' it said.
The report said Airtel's quality has improved, but is still to meet the set parameters.
There has been some improvement in call drop on the network of Aircel, Idea Cellular and Tata Teleservices in Mumbai, while the problem has worsened on the networks of Vodafone, Airtel and Reliance Communications, it noted.
Trai also issued 'The standards of quality service of basic telephony service (wireline) and cellular mobile telephone service regulations 2015' in which it will impose a financial disincentive for non-compliance with the benchmarks.
Major service providers, including Vodafone, Airtel, Reliance, and Idea Cellular claim they have been trying to resolve the issue and are already working on improving their networks, but are yet to succeed for lack of spectrum.
In fact, Vodafone Group CEO Vittorio Colao who agreed with telecom minister Ravi Shankar Prasad on Wednesday that call drops were a problem in major cities that needed to be resolved later said the issue of call drops is connected to availability of spectrum.