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Cable operators need bitter pill

The more things change, the more they remain the same. This holds true in respect of broadcast distribution services.

delhi Updated: Feb 13, 2011 00:59 IST
pushpa girimaji

The more things change, the more they remain the same. This holds true in respect of broadcast distribution services.

When we had only (analog) cable operators, we were victims of a number of unfair trade practices perpetrated by the service providers and longed for viable options that would get us out of their clutches. If only there was competition, things would change, we said.

Today, we have choice and there is competition. We can opt for Direct to Home (DTH) services or the Internet Protocol Television Services (IPTV) or the digital cable service.

Yet, satisfactory service eludes consumers.

The problem begins right at the stage of activation of the service. After collecting the money from the consumer, companies do not bother to get the service activated on the promised day, forcing consumers to repeatedly call the helpline. That could be a really frustrating experience.

In fact, this is an area where the regulator’s intervention is urgently needed. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) should direct the service providers not to encash consumers’ cheques till the connection is activated. Then there are complaints such as charging for services or channels not opted for. Or failing to deliver a film ordered and insisting on not returning the amount deducted for it.

There are also problems of incorrect billing and poor quality of reception. But all these could have been sorted out if only the service providers had an effective system of in-house complaint redressal.

Meanwhile, an order by the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission on January 14, directing Tata Sky Limited to refund R3,774 to a consumer and also pay a compensation of R15,000 should force service providers to improve quality parameters.

As per this order, Ms Kamla Lall, ordered two Tata Sky connections on December 28, 2006. However, even though she was promised that the service would be activated on December 31, it was finally activated only on January 4.

This too, happened after repeated reminders and threats of cancellation of the order.

Even then, only one set top box was activated and the second was not. The grounds provided by the company was that her television set was not compatible with the box. However, the company would not take back the box and refund the money, forcing her to eventually seek the help of the consumer court.

Nishant Singh: On February 4, I paid R1,199 towards an IPTV connection and was told that within 48 hours, the connection would be in place. Yet, nothing has happened so far. Even customer care is not helping. Please advise how to hold this reputed company responsible.

Answer: Ask the service provider to cancel your order and refund your money with interest and compensation for having made you wait unnecessarily for a connection that never came about. Complain to the Nodal officer of the company and also send a copy to TRAI. I would also advise you to quote the judgement of the consumer court in your letter of complaint.