The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) plans to set up a fund with a corpus of Rs 10 crore to promote awareness among telecom consumers, to educate them and protect their interests.
Officials of the regulatory agency, which released a paper on the issue on Friday, said the funds would be realised from telecom service providers who may have charged their subscribers amounts in excess of the rates determined by TRAI regulations and could not or did not refund them.
“Our estimate is that various telecom companies have more than Rs 10 crore in undisbursed amounts accumulated over the last ten years. This could not be refunded to the concerned subscribers and are thus lying as unclaimed with the service providers," TRAI chairman Nripendra Misra told Hindustan Times.
The funds are lying with the service providers in separately earmarked accounts, and retaining the amount would amount to undue or unjust enrichment, TRAI said in a statement.
“Therefore, this amount is required to be ploughed by an institutionalized mechanism for utilising such amounts for activities aimed at promotion of the telecommunication consumer’s education and protection," it said.
The amount is expected to be transferred to the planned fund within 30 days after TRAI gives orders to this effect.
Although interest from the corpus would eventually be used to educate consumers, for a short period of 18 months, up to five per cent of the corpus can be used to meet the fund's objectives, Misra said.
The fund would be used to educate telecom consumers about the rights, inform them of the latest developments in the sector and its laws, keep them abreast of measures taken by the government and the regulator to protect consumer interests.