In a move that will bring relief to 900 million telecom subscribers, the government will soon amend the Indian Telegraph Act to bring disputes between consumer and operators within the jurisdiction of consumer forums. Consumer forums are established under the Consumer Protection Act of 1986 for speedy, simple and inexpensive access to grievance redressal for ordinary consumers. The basic idea is to protect consumers from having to go in for lengthy, expensive and time-consuming civil suits.
However, telecom subscribers are out of its loop, as their rights are governed by the Indian Telegraph Act."Indian Telegraph Act needs amendment as the number of subscribers has increased drastically in last decade," said an official of the department of telecommunications (DoT). "With the total subscriber base expected to touch one billion, the consumer redressal system should be easy and within reach of the common man."
“Consumers are facing serious problems as they do not have any recourse if they have complaint against operators,” said Mahesh Uppal, a Delhi-based telecom regulations expert. “TRAI and TDSAT have limited jurisdiction over such complaints. So any measures taken by the government will help consumers.”
In January, Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had unveiled the Telecom Consumers Complaint Redressal Regulations, 2012 to improve the existing mechanism of resolving consumer complaints against telcos. Under this, there is a two-tier redressal system — call centre at the first level and an appellate authority at the next.
TRAI has also provided for a two-member advisory committee to vet all complaints received by the appellate authority and give its recommendations.
The proposed amendments in the Telegraph Act are bound to strengthen TRAI’s efforts to empower consumers.