With the mobile telephone market adding 18 million consumers a month, the government feels the time is ripe to introduce a separate grievance-redressal mechanism for the sector.
The law ministry has asked the ministry of communications and IT to work towards setting up consumer courts specifically for mobile-users.
“The mobile subscriber base has increased in the last few years, and they are facing so many problems that we want special consumer courts for them,” law minister Veerapa Moily told Hindustan Times. “We have asked the ministry of IT and communications to work in this direction.”
P.J. Thomas, secretary of the department of telecommunications (DoT) declined to comment saying the ministry is yet to receive written communications from the law ministry.
“We agree with the law minister that there is need for special redressal mechanism for mobile subscribers,” said an official of the department of telecommunications (DoT).
Currently, if a consumer has grievances against an operator, he has no recourse but to approach normal courts.
The only alternative to the consumer at present is to approach the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India --- as a group.
“This is a very cumbersome process and is also very costly for consumers,” said Ravi Sharma, executive chairman of CMAI association of India (CAI), an integrated telecom and IT association for industry and consumers. “That is why we want special and exclusive mobile consumer courts for timely and effective redressal of problems. This will also make operators more conscious towards the quality of service.”
In a recent meeting with CAI, Moily had promised setting up special consumer courts for mobile subscribers.
Recent Hindustan Times and C Fore surveys have revealed that more than three out of five users face call drops, once or twice in every 10 calls. As many as 45 per cent of those surveyed said they faced billing-related problems “often” or “sometimes”.
In another survey among business users in the four metros, 88 per cent of respondents said they had faced at least 2 call drops, and 61 per cent had faced 3 or more call drops, in every 10 calls.
“It was a nightmare when calls dropped during the closing minutes of the stock market. I couldn’t advise my client and he suffered financial losses,” said G.P. Saini, a Delhi-based chartered accountant. “More than 35% of about 300 complaints that we get every day are from mobile consumers,” said Bejon Misra, the chairman of Cell for Consumer Education and Advocacy.