Call drops: SC agrees to hear telcos’ plea against compensating subscribers

Supreme Court today agreed to hear a plea of two cellular operator associations challenging Delhi High Court order upholding TRAI's decision

By: PTI | Published: March 3, 2016 5:24 pm
SC agrees to hear plea of telecom operators against Delhi HC order SC agrees to hear plea of telecom operators against Delhi HC order

The Supreme Court today agreed to hear a plea of two cellular operator associations challenging Delhi High Court order upholding TRAI’s decision making it mandatory for them to compensate subscribers for call drops from January 1, 2016.

The plea of the associations was mentioned before a bench of Chief Justice T S Thakur seeking urgent hearing on the matter.

The bench also comprising Justice U U Lalit asked the associations “Why don’t you correct the system?”

Senior advocate Kapil Sibal, appearing for the telecom associations, said that this matter required urgent hearing as Delhi HC has upheld the TRAI order, after which the bench agreed to hear the plea tomorrow.

The high court had, earlier this week, upheld the October 16, 2016 decision of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) making it mandatory for cellular operators to pay consumers one rupee per call drop experienced on their networks, subject to a cap of Rs 3 a day.

The court order came while dismissing a batch of petitions filed by Cellular Operators Association of India, a body of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India and 21 telecom operators, including Vodafone, Bharti Airtel and Reliance.

The high court had said that it had not stayed TRAI’s notification since filing of the writ petition, therefore the telecom regulator is at liberty to implement its decision January 1, 2016 onwards.

The court had said that the regulation was made by TRAI “keeping in mind the paramount interest of the consumer”.

The telecom operators had moved the high court seeking quashing of TRAI’s regulation contending that it was a “knee-jerk reaction” which penalised them without proving any wrongdoing.

The telcos had termed the regulation as “arbitrary and whimsical” contending that providing compensation to consumers amounted to interfering with companies’ tariff structure which could be done only by order, not regulation.

The high court, while brushing aside the contention of telcos, had also observed that the compensation for call drops was capped at Rs 3 only and the regulation also mandated only compensating the calling consumer not the receiver.

Earlier, TRAI had told the high court that consumers have a right to get compensated for call drops and this was different from the quality of service guidelines that cellular service providers have to follow under the licence conditions.

TRAI had termed the call drops as a “pervasive problem”, saying it amounted to “harassment” of consumers as well as breach of contract that telcos had with subscribers.

TRAI had on December 22, last year told the court that no coercive steps would be taken against telecom firms till January 6 for not complying with the call drop compensation norms.

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