One winter morning in the national capital, Sheila (name changed) who works as a house-help, set out to work at 6 a.m. Along the way, she felt dizzy and took shelter under a tree. The roads were deserted at that hour. She knew that if she were late to work, the lady whose house she worked at would call. So she sat there waiting for that call.
You may wonder why she didn’t call anyone for help–it was almost the end of the month, and her service provider had already warned her thrice to make the ‘mandatory’ recharge to continue availing the benefits. She, on her part, was waiting for the new month to begin to do the needful.
With the services being barred, she, unfortunately, did not even receive a call. She sat there until daybreak and finally sought help when she saw someone walk past.
Fortunately, Sheila was safe–imagine if the situation was otherwise and her only way of seeking help was by making a call.
Taking note of this practice of forcing customers to recharge their pre-paid accounts in spite of having sufficient balance, the telecom regulator came down heavily on the operators.
“TRAI has received a large number of complaints regarding SMSs being received by them to mandatorily recharge their prepaid accounts in order to continue to avail services even though their prepaid account have sufficient balance in it,” the regulator wrote in letters to the two telcos, dated November 27.
TRAI Chairman R S Sharma, in a report published by the Financial Express, said, “These subscribers rued that the messages are being sent despite their pre-paid accounts having “sufficient balance”. Tariff and plans are under forbearance, and we don’t generally intervene. But if there is sufficient money in the account and despite that, people are being told that the services will be disconnected, it is not correct.”
Going one step further, TRAI also said, “Duly inform subscribers in a clear and transparent manner, the date on which the current validity of (the) existing plan would expire and the manner in which the subscriber can opt for the available plans, including minimum recharge plan using subscriber’s available pre-paid account balance or otherwise.”
The telcos were also directed not to deactivate the SIMs of subscribers as long as they have balance in their accounts equal to the minimum recharge amount required – as per a tariff plan.
These comments were in reaction to Airtel and Vodafone Idea attempt to offload customers who only maintained a minimum balance, allowing only incoming calls. At a time when there are multiple service providers, each trying to woo and increase their client and revenue base–TRAI is ensuring that they employ the best practices in doing this.
This is certainly a huge relief for the large number of pre-paid customers in India.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)