Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), the telecom and broadcast regulator has asked DTH operator Dish TV India to comply with the provisions of the new regulations for cable and DTH companies. The regulator was responding to consumer complaints about the operator. Earlier TRAI chairman RS Sharma had said they would take strict action against companies that were not complying with the new regulatory framework and were forcing consumers to stick with their own packs and plans.
TRAI also pulled up Bharti Telemedia, which is the company name for Airtel DTH, on similar grounds. According to the TRAI, Dish TV “is forcefully offering a bouquet of free-to-air channels with no choice to subscribers and without their consent.”
In a detailed directive on its website, TRAI wrote that this bouquet of free-to-air channels, which are being added without any choice or consent by subscribers also come with a following message that reads as follows: “This is a free to air bouquet at no extra charge. If you have selected any pay channel, then this bouquet will not impact your NCF.”
TRAI also pointed out that consumers were not able to contact the toll-free number of Dish TV India Ltd to express their grievance. This is also in violation of the new rules, which specifically state that companies need to have a customer care centre for addressing their service requests and complaints.
The rules also specifically say “the distributor shall ensure that such centre: (a) has a toll free “customer care number” having sufficient number of lines or connections and human resources to efficiently service the subscriber base of the distributor.”
TRAI has told Dish TV India to resolve the issues and report compliance within five days from the date of issue of this direction. The directive was issued on April 24, 2019. TRAI chief RS Sharma has already promised strict action against companies forcing consumers to choose packs.
“We have received complaints about inconvenience to customers. These complaints relate to software and systems put in place by distributors not enabling true choice for consumers, which is the aim of the whole framework. If choice of channels is restricted…then basic intention seems to be to push packs and bouquets and push your own agenda. That is not the spirit of the regulatory framework,” Sharma had told PTI in an interaction.
Further, the TRAI chief said that the regulator would audit systems of various service providers in order to ensure compliance with the new regulatory framework.
What are TRAI’s new regulations for cable, DTH companies ?
TRAI’s new rules and regulations came into effect on February 1, 2019. These ensure that customers can now fully choose their television channels based on their preferences. The base network capacity fee or NCF charge is Rs 130+ 18 per cent GST, which brings it to Rs 153.
Users can choose 100 channels in this range, though if paid channels are added to the list, then the price will rise depending on the choice of the channel. Keep in mind some broadcasters and DTH companies also have curated packs, which you can pick and choose.
However, as TRAI reminds, the cable company or DTH player cannot force you to choose a particular pack. Even if a Free-to-Air (FTA) channel is added to your pack, which you do not wish to see or want in your pack, you can have it removed. However, the Doordarshan channels are mandatory.
TRAI’s rules clearly state, “Every distributor of television channels shall offer all channels available on its network to all subscribers on a-la-carte basis and declare distributor retail price, per month” and that a “subscriber shall be free to choose any free-to-air channel, pay channel, or bouquet(s) of channels offered by the broadcaster(s) or bouquet(s) of channels offered by distributors of television channels or a combination thereof.”
So while companies can have packs, bouquets of channels, they cannot force the customer to stick with any of these.