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Trai chokes ‘voice’ of cellular operators

New Delhi, Sept. 1: Next time you miss a call on your cell and the call gets diverted to voicemail or you call a mobile phone and it ends in voicemail — a service you had not activated — you can sue your service provider.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India today reprimanded the cellular operators for imposing the voice mail service (VMS) on a subscriber without his consent. In doing so, the cellular operators have flouted Trai guidelines, the regulator said while turning down their appeal on the issue today.

Trai had advised cellular operators on August 8, 2003, not to provide this service without the consent of the subscriber. Most of the cellular operators had agreed.

“However, some service providers had said that only those subscribers who retrieve the message are charged for the service. Trai does not find the argument convincing as a subscriber calling a mobile number would end up paying for the calls without even knowing whether the subscriber he is calling has subscribed for the service or not,” the regulator said.

“A subscriber can approach the judiciary because if the operators impose this service it will be a breach of service conditions,” a senior Trai official said.

Trai had received complaints from subscribers that a few operators were offering VMS without taking their consent. Usually no monthly charge was levied but the called party had to pay to retrieve the messages. In some cases, the calling-party has ended up paying for the calls even where the called-party chooses not to access his voice mail.

“Unless the subscriber sends a confirmatory message in reply to an SMS or any other communication from the service provider on the issue, the operators should discontinue the voicemail service with immediate effect and ensure compliance to the authority within next five days from the issue of this letter,” the regulator said.

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