TRAI orders operators to provide monthly pre-paid plans

28 Jan 2022

Following complaints from consumer groups regarding the prevalence of tariffs with validity for 28 days the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has mandated that service providers also offer monthly plans or offers with 30-day validity. The decision, implemented through an amendment to the most recent Tariff Order, requires that service providers offer at least one Plan Voucher, Special Tariff Voucher and Combo Voucher with validity of 30 days and one Plan Voucher, Special Tariff Voucher and Combo Voucher that is renewable on the same date of each month. Consumer advocacy groups had lodged complaints with the regulator, stating that the 28-day billing period did not represent monthly billing as users were required to pay for at least 13 top-ups within a year. Further, users complained of the inconvenience of irregular top-ups caused by the 28-day billing period. The TRAI acknowledged that operators had been transparent in marketing their offers and had not attempted to represent 28-day plans as ‘monthly’. Nevertheless, the regulator noted that consumer perception must be taken into consideration and highlighted the ‘persistence of confusion in the minds of the consumers and the inconvenience caused to them in practical terms due to unavailability of monthly tariff offerings’. Responding to initial consultations on the matter cellcos Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) claimed that monthly billing would not be possible with their billing systems, whilst Vodafone Idea (Vi) said that the change would require ‘gigantic efforts in terms of consumer awareness, configurations in billing systems, publications in own and third party channels and retail channel education.’