Given that the telecom sector receives over 10 million consumer complaints every three months, the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) has decided to revamp the grievance redressal system for telecom services. Following a clearance from the Telecom Commission on Tuesday, DoT will amend the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act to allow the regulator to set up an ombudsman to deal with telecom-related grievances.
“Revamp of the grievance redressal in the telecom sector has been a long-standing demand. Parliamentary Standing Committees had also raised these issues. We get 10 million grievances and complaints per quarter. Current mechanism is that the telecom service provider has the mechanism internally to deal with complaints, after which it comes to the DoT’s Centralized Public Grievance Redress And Monitoring System (CPGRAMS) portal but this has also not been fully satisfactory,” a senior government official said.
Under the new system, the DoT has proposed a three-tier mechanism — first will be within the telecom company where a complaint can be made. If the consumer is not satisfied with it, each company will set up an appellate mechanism to which the person can complaint. After that, the user can move to the consumer grievance redressal forum. “On top of this, there will be a telecom ombudsman, which will be created by Trai. Trai had said that it did not have the powers to create an ombudsman, and therefore it is proposed to give them the powers. The idea is that they can have one ombudsman per telecom service provider, or one ombudsman per region or as many as required,” the official said, adding that this will bring in a much more satisfactory redressal mechanism in the telecom sector.
Notably, the Trai, in 2004 had suggested to the DoT to vest powers in the regulator to be able to create the Office of Ombudsman in the telecommunications sector. “The ombudsman would facilitate through its mediation, the terms for the resolution, settlement and/or withdrawal of the complaints. The unresolved complaints will inevitably go to the Consumer Courts,” Trai had said. Whether or not the ombudsman will have penal powers over telecom companies is something that the Trai will take a call on, the DoT official said.
The industry is of the view that setting up of the ombudsman is not likely to add further value to the existing system. “COAI always supports strengthening the grievance redressal mechanism. However, we are of the view that, since overall complaints are miniscule in comparison to the subscriber base and the rupee values are not very large, existing mechanisms are adequate. We are not sure as to how setting up of an Ombudsman will add further value to the existing system of compliant redressal. Moreover, we believe Trai currently does not have adjuratory powers to act as Ombudsman and this will need to be addressed in the context of the Telecom Act 1885 under which TSP Licenses are granted,” COAI director general Rajan Mathews said.