The Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has asked all telecom service providers to address grievances raised by consumers within 30-60 days seeing that despite an instruction from the Prime Minister to make efforts to reduce the time for grievance redressal, a number of cases have been pending for more than 60 days and even 180 days in some instances.
A note dated July 23, 2018, circulated by the DoT to all telecom companies and various wings of the department, which was reviewed by The Indian Express, pointed out that the delay in resolving complaints for such long periods of time “has been viewed adversely by higher authorities in various review meetings”. It added that during discussions at the PRAGATI meeting on March 23, 2016, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had “desired that all efforts should be made to reduce the time taken for redress of a grievance from the existing two-month period to one month”.
“All out effort should be made to redress public grievances received through various means including CPGRAMS (Centralized Public Grievance Redress And Monitoring System) within 30 days time frame. Accordingly, all the officers/staff should be sensitised to improve the effectiveness/efficiency by use of technology,” the DoT said.
Following a review on May 29 this year, of the Prime Minister’s instructions at the 2016 PRAGATI meeting, the Directorate of Public Grievances in the Cabinet Secretariat wrote to DoT on June 28 to look into the cases and expedite resolution to ensure time bound completion. According to a DoT official, the CPGRAMS platform receives around 10 million complaints every quarter.
“…all telecom service providers are requested to try their best to redress the grievances well within the time frame as specified in TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) regulations (of two months) or within a month’s time as desired by hon’ble Prime Minister. If any case is taking more than specified time of one month, then proper reason/explanation of delay and expected time to redress the grievance should be intimated to the complainant…,” it added.
The current mechanism for grievance redressal in the telecom sector has been admitted to be inadequate and the government along with TRAI have been making efforts to revamp the system.
In a live chat on Twitter on Tuesday, TRAI Chairman RS Sharma said: “We feel that the current mechanism of redressal of telecom grievances is not really great. When I have a complaint, I approach a telecom service provider…if I don’t get a satisfactory resolution there, then I again go to an appellate body, which is housed in the telecom company. Thereafter, I have no redress. TRAI itself doesn’t have any authority to deal with individual consumer grievances”.
To address this, the DoT, after 14 years of being recommended by TRAI, has cleared the proposal to create an independent ombudsman for the telecom sector. It is now in the process of amending the TRAI Act to allow the regulator to set up the ombudsman to deal with telecom-related grievances.
Explaining the existing system of complaint resolution, Sharma said: “Currently, there are two tiers and both are housed inside the telecom space. The third tier will be an independent body, which will ensure that if these two tiers have not done their job, the defaulting telecom service provider can be penalised in case the complaint was genuine and was not addressed. This will create a kind of fear in the mind of the two bodies to do their job well. Unfortunately, right now we don’t have that mechanism and therefore we completely agree, we don’t have a satisfactory mechanism”. However, the telecom industry believed that given that the number of complaints were miniscule in comparison to the subscriber base, existing mechanisms are adequate, and that setting up of an ombudsman may not add further value to the existing system.