Sector watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has criticised Reliance Communications (RCOM) for attempting to seize unspent pre-paid balances and security deposits of its customers following the closure of its wireless services, threatening to take action if the company continues to refuse to refund its former subscribers. TRAI Chairman RS Sharma was quoted by the Economic Times as saying that the company does not have any ‘moral, ethical or legal basis to say that they can’t refund the money’. RCOM was directed by the regulator to refund its customers’ unused credit by 31 January 2018, but the cellco has challenged the order, saying that under mobile number portability (MNP) rules, it is not required to give any money back to the users. The operator added that there was no precedent of customer refunds from other cases of operators closing down.
Responding to the claims, Mr Sharma explained: ‘We have given directions under the relevant provisions of the TRAI Act. We have the powers to give directions to RCOM … What is happening today is a very exceptional situation. In a normal MNP case, I typically exhaust all my balance before I port out because I know I won’t get a refund. But in this situation, the operator has shut down services, so the consumer doesn’t have the opportunity to exhaust the balance. Therefore, this is a very abnormal situation.’