The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Trai gives it a try to untie tariff knots

New Delhi, June 9: The telecom regulator today attempted to take some of the confusion out of the bewildering array of tariff packages that basic and cellular telephony companies hurl at their customers by suggesting a standardised format for providing tariff information.

Telephone users — both basic and cellular — have often been befuddled by the rate package that the cellular, basic and wireless-in-local-loop (WiLL) service providers advertise. Many of these companies have more than 25 tariff packages and customers have little idea about the real costs of the service and are often dismayed when they receive their telephone bills.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) is attempting to stop all that and give consumers a proper basis for evaluating the costs of competing telephony services.

At the heart of the standardised tariff reporting format is the principle of reporting the ‘implicit call charge’ which, Trai says, should be given in rupees per minute and take into account airtime charge, long distance charge etc.

The implicit call charge will have to be given for both local calls and inter-circle STD charges for calls made over distances in excess of 500 kms.

The Trai-devised standard tariff package consists of four broad heads — rental plus other fixed monthly recurring charges; interest of advance payment/deposit to be calculated at the rate of 8 per cent; free call allowance, and the implicit call charge for local and STD calls across the three telephony networks — basic, cellular and WiLL(M).

The fixed monthly recurring charges will include elements like the plan fee, membership fee, commitment charges and any other additional charges for availing of a discount.

The implicit call charge is calculated by adding up the costs of the first two heads — rentals plus fixed monthly recurring charges and the interest on advance payment/deposits — divided by the number of minutes used.

“The implicit charge should include the total amount paid for the call by the customer. For example, in the case of cellular mobile, the airtime charge and any long distance charge should be combined together for the calculation,” says the Trai note.

The regulator also said the basis for converting any free call allowance and other calls into a per minute rate should be explained.

Trai said it had taken the step after receiving a number of representation stating that the telephone companies were reporting their tariff packages in a manner that “makes it difficult for the customer to know the financial implications of the tariffs”.

The telecom regulator, which has in the past indicated its desire to prune the number of tariff options that telephone companies offer to their bemused customers, also noted that there were a number of tariff packages which combine monthly recurring charges together with relatively low call charges.

“The effective call charge paid by the subscriber under these packages is more than the amount indicated as call charge,” the Trai note said.

The suggested tariff format should be included in any advertisement for a particular tariff package. “The format would help the consumer to be better aware of the overall financial expenditure incurred under any particular tariff package and will also help the consumer to better compare various tariff packages which are on offer and are being advertised.”

Trai invited comments on the suggested format in order to identify gaps/errors and to make any improvements. While inviting the comments, it suggested that respondents should bear in mind the need to have as simple a format as possible.

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