New Delhi, June 27: Mobile phone operators cannot snap the connection of post-paid subscribers without giving notice and time to make payments.
The directive by the telecom watchdog is intended at protecting subscribers from sudden disconnection ' a practice widely prevalent now, though few companies would admit so in public.
The trigger for such snap disconnections is a little known ceiling called credit limit ' a level set for each subscriber based on usage, payment patterns and loyalty. Some companies do mention the credit limit but there have been complaints that it is done only selectively.
If the usage exceeds the limit before the billing cycle falls due, many cell companies withdraw the outgoing call facility, hoping to force the subscriber to get in touch with the operator and make an interim payment.
But the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has now ruled that operators will have to inform the subscriber in advance of the credit limit.
When the usage and other applicable charges reach 80 per cent of the credit limit, the operator should inform the subscriber. The consequences of the usage exceeding the credit limit, including the possibility of disconnection, should be detailed in the intimation, the authority has said.
It added that the initial credit limit should be intimated within seven days of activation of the service for new subscribers. The subscriber should be given full information in advance on the consequences of the charges exceeding the credit limit, as well as the manner in which the ceiling could be enhanced.
Services to the subscriber should not be disrupted until and unless the credit limit fixed for a subscriber is exceeded despite adequate intimation.
Irrespective of the credit limit, the services to the subscriber should not be disrupted as long as the amount due is below that of the security deposit, according to a statement issued by the watchdog.
The operators have also been asked to inform all existing post-paid subscribers of the credit limit. They have been directed to file a compliance report within 15 days. The directive comes into effect from Monday.
If any company flouts the directives, subscribers can approach a consumer court or any consumer organisation that can take up the issue with the telecom authority.
A senior telecom executive said: “We do inform the subscribers about the credit limit. But is not always reflected in the bills like credit card companies. It is also a parameter by which we offer special schemes and discounts to our subscribers. We will give a report to the authority with the details.”
“The disconnection is done when the billing analysis software shows a discrepancy in the usage pattern of a subscriber. We normally disconnect the outgoing calls and when the subscriber checks with us we confirm about the increase in the usage pattern and reconnect,” he added.
T.V. Ramachandran, the director-general of the Cellular Operators Association of India, said it is “good for the subscribers if they are informed regularly of their credit rating”.