Consumer-interest groups in the city have called the pricing of set-top boxes “unreasonable” and demanded a revision of rates to suit the pocket of the viewer.
The Federation of Consumer Associations of West Bengal is sending a petition to the state chief secretary on Thursday, seeking a cap of Rs 1,900 on analog and Rs 2,700 on digital set-top boxes. While RPG Netcom is charging Rs 2,650 for its analog box, Manthan has quoted Rs 2,600. SitiCable, which plans to roll out CAS on an all-digital platform, has priced its box at Rs 3,289 plus an extra Rs 400 as viewing card security deposit.
“This is unfair trade practice by service providers and traders who are keeping huge profits, cheating the consumers by inflating box prices,” complained Mala Banerjee, president of the consumer groups’ umbrella body and member of the central CAS task force.
The Centre had slashed import duty on the set-top boxes, required to view pay channels in the post-CAS scenario, from 52 per cent to five per cent, to ease the burden on the viewer. Consumer groups, however, alleged that the benefit is not being passed on to the end-user and is “being eaten up” by multi-system operators (MSOs) and trading agents importing the decoder boxes in bulk.
The MSOs, though, were quick to refute such allegations of rampant profiteering. “We are not making any profit on the boxes,” asserted RPG Netcom CEO Amit Nag. “If the state government waives the 13.8 per cent sales tax with surcharge, we would happily pass on that amount to our viewers,” said Manthan COO Rangan Dasgupta.