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Dialing the Right Connection

Dialing the Right ConnectionMobile Service Providers like Airtel, Aircel, Tata Indicom etc. and government telephone companies like BSNL till now were enjoying a protective status when it came to being a party to Telecom disputes. This meant that if you had any issue with your telecom service provider, you couldn’t approach any consumer court for resolving your problems.  Also, there was no clarity in terms of an arbitrator who could step in to help consumers get legal support. As a result, service providers and telephone companies were showing a lackadaisical attitude when it came to resolving disputes and issues with their services.

This situation was primarily due to the fact that the Hon’ble Supreme Court of India in 2009 had passed a judgement while  deciding a BSNL appeal that consumer forum can’t rule over telecom disputes . All issues were to be resolve by the Department of Telecom. Innocent consumers were facing the brunt of this judgement and as a result they were miffed with the government. It was left to the government to appoint an arbitrator or resolve the deadlock.

Finally a Resolution

The DOT (Department of Telecommunications) {Policy-I Section} under the Ministry of Communication & IT of the Government of India  has finally addressed the issue through its Office Memorandum dated 4th February’2014 vide its No. 2-17/2013-Policy-I. The memorandum states that:

  • The SC judgement relates to a time when the Department of Telecom (DOT) and BSNL were in one entity. Since then, DOT has turned regulator a BSNL is a separate entity as are all mobile companies. The only “telegraph authority” that gets protection from consumer courts is the DOT
  • Therefore while the SC judgement is all right, it does not apply to private service providers or to BSNL as it is today
  • The Consumer Courts are competent to deal with disputes between individual telecom consumers and telecom service providers

This simply means that consumer courts, with effect to aforesaid DOT Memo,  are now empowered to exercise their jurisdiction to pass judgement on consumer disputes related to telecom or mobile service providers, such as Airtel, Idea, Vodafone and Reliance Communications etc. including BSNL . So if you as a consumer have been randomly exorbitantly charged by your telecom service provider, or were slapped a bill in spite of having disconnected the telecom service, or have any grievance against the service provider, you can approach the consumer court for justice and speedy legal help.

At this juncture, it is imperative to let readers know that consumers do also have another legal tool to get resolution to their disputes beside the consumer courts. The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) was established in 1997 through an Act of Parliament, viz., the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, 1997. Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s mission is to ensure that the interests of consumers are protected and at the same time to nurture conditions for growth of telecommunications, broadcasting and cable services in a manner and at a pace which will enable India to play a leading role in the emerging global information society.

TRAI gives highest importance for consumer protection as it is embodied in the preamble to the Act, as below:-

An Act to provide for the establishment of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India and the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal to regulate the telecommunication services, adjudicate disputes, dispose of appeals and to protect the interests of service providers and consumers of telecom sector and for matters connected therewith or incidental thereto.

Case Study

A Consumer Complaint Case No. 249 of 2009 was lodged by one Bachan Singh Bhullar as against Idea Cellular Ltd. , Spice Communication Pvt. Ltd and  the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India as against their monopolistic and unfair trade practice in the learned District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum (DCF), Ferozpur.

The learned DCF, Ferozpur, having examined the allegations framed through said Consumer Complaint and elaborately having discussed all related issues, penalized the telecom service providers [ Idea & Spice ] by directing them to pay a sum of Rs.1,00,000/- as payable compensation, beside a sum of Rs.5,000/- as against litigation cost.

For more information on the above case study, readers can read more by clicking this link.

Our View 

This judgement is a sign of great relief for innocent customers who are always taken for a ride by big telecom companies and government telecom bodies. We believe that this turn of legal affairs will be a signal for telecom companies to either mend their narcissistic ways or pay.

Power to Consumer stands by every single consumer who has been a sufferer of such unfair trade practices. If you know of anyone who has been a victim or are a victim yourself, please feel free to approach us on for legal help and support. Meanwhile, help us spread awareness about this issue far and wide by sharing the link within your social circles.

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Dialing the Right Connection


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