The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is taking measures to protect customers after receiving complaints regarding Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea’s plans to remove low activity users from their networks, the Economic Times reports, citing letters sent by the regulator to the two cellcos. In a bid to increase ARPUs by removing subscribers that generate little to no revenue, the two cellcos have introduced minimum recharge pre-paid packs which block outgoing calls after 30 days – and incoming calls after 45 – even if the subscriber still has credit on their account. As such, the plans require customers to top-up regularly or lose their credit, either increasing the revenue generated by these users or removing them from their networks. According to the paper, the minimum recharge packs target customers that maintain the minimum balance on their pre-paid account so that they can receive calls but do not make outgoing calls.
In its notice, the TRAI explained that it had received a ‘large number of complaints regarding SMS being received by [customers] to mandatorily recharge their pre-paid accounts in order to continue to avail services, even though their pre-paid accounts have sufficient balance’. After a meeting with the operators the TRAI is now reviewing their inputs and has instructed the duo in the meantime to inform subscribers in a clear and transparent manner the data on which the validity of their existing plan would expire. Airtel and Vodafone Idea were also instructed to inform customers how they could opt for available plans, including the minimum recharge plan, using their available balance. In addition, the watchdog instructed the pair not to disconnect SIMs of users with a balance equal or greater than the minimum recharge amount.
Responding to a query from the Economic Times, a Vodafone Idea spokesperson commented on the new plans: ‘Catering to the evolving market dynamics, Vodafone Idea has radically simplified its pre-paid plans to enhance customer convenience. These new integrated pre-paid plans, available in a range of price points, offer bundled talk-time and tariff, making them easier to understand and use. These plans have been rolled out across all circles and we are actively communicating with customers, informing them of the changes and helping them avail these new plans.’