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PrivateTelecom Operators Should Be Brought Under RTI-Right To Information Act ?

22 September 2011 No Comment

This News article is of the woes of a Consumer, Gursimran Singh Sandhu, a resident of Chandigarh in Punjab, who has written to various departments including DOT AND TRAI to bring the Private Telecom Operators(Mobile) under the purview of Right to Information Act , despite his repeated complaints to the Mobile company of receiving unsolicited SMS messages in the middle of the night, his complaints were not looked into and from Jan 2011 and a resolution came in September 2011, does it take 8 long months for the Mobile Service provider to resolve this ?

The Telecom sector has seen a revolution in terms of Mobile Communication, today customers have options to choose from loads of Mobile operators available in the Indian Market, but is there a transparency in their working ? in terms of Customer grievances if you search on the net, complaint against any Mobile service provider there will be loads of complaints of Sms’es being received even after registering for DND (Do not Disturb) service, Billing related issues,and what not. Is DOT(Department of  Telecommunication) or TRAI (Telecom Regulatory Authority of India) taking any action on these complaints, or even to complaints forwarded to them…..? Seems not, as DOT just acts as a mediator in forwarding complaints to Nodal officers of companies and the matter ends for them, Below is one such example with evidence as to how a Consumer goes through hardships due to irresponsible behavior and lack of severe measures not being initiated by DOT and it happens because private operators do not fall under the purview of RTI Act (Right to Information Act).

Gursimran Singh Sandhu, a resident of Chandigarh in Punjab tried his level best by complaining to DOT,for unwanted sms messages sent to him in the wee hours of Night from Jan 2011 to March 2011 for his number listed in the National DND List,since Oct 2007!! but his efforts didn’t bear any results, he complained to this effect at DoT’s website (DOTEL/P/2011/00125), but the outcome was “zero” as it still took 8 months for the Mobile service provider to resolve a problem on their end,  Sandhu has now sent his grievances to: The Secretary, Central Information Commission,The State Information Commission Officers and The Department of Telecommunication Officers, to which he is yet to receive a reply, we at RTI Activist News have taken up his cause to highlight his woes and helplessness as a consumer, who are becoming a victim of  undue freedom given to the Mobile Service providers as they don’t fall under the RTI Act.

If we look at the DND portal of TRAI it clearly states ” The primary objective of the National Do Not Call Registry (NDNC Registry) is to curb Unsolicited Commercial Communication (UCC). UCC has been defined as “any message, through telecommunications service, which is transmitted for the purpose of informing about,or soliciting or promoting any commercial transaction in relation to goods, investments or services which a subscriber opts not to receive, but, does not include, —-

(i) any message (other than promotional message) relating to a service or financial transaction under a specific contract between the parties to such contract;or

(ii) any messages relating to charities, national campaigns or natural calamities transmitted on the directions of the Government or agencies authorized by it for the said purpose;

(iii) messages transmitted, on the directions of the Government or any authority or agency authorized by it, in the interest of the sovereignty and integrity of India, the security of the State, friendly relations with foreign States, public order, decency or morality.”

The NDNC Registry will be a data base having the list of all telephone numbers of the subscribers who do not want to receive UCC.After the establishment of NDNC registry, Telephone subscriber (Landline or mobile) who does not wish to receive UCC, can register their telephone number with their telecom service provider for inclusion in the NDNC. Telecom Service Provider shall upload the telephone number to the NDNC within 45 days of receipt. The Telemarketer will have to verify their calling telephone numbers list with the NDNC registry before making a call. To discourage the telemarketers who make calls to the numbers registered in Do Not Call List, a provision has been made whereby Rs.500/ – shall be payable by the telemarketer to the service provider for every first unsolicited commercial communication (UCC) and Rs.1000/- shall be payable for subsequent UCC. There is a provision for disconnection of the telemarketer telephone number / telecom resource if the UCC is sent even after levy of Rs.500/- & Rs.1000/- tariff. In case of non-compliance to the Telecom Unsolicited Commercial Communications Regulations, 2007, the Service Provider is also liable to pay an amount by way of financial disincentive, not exceeding Rs.5000/- for first non-compliance of the regulation and in case of second or subsequent such non-compliance, an amount not exceeding Rs.20,000/- for each such non-compliance.

But what happens when a consumer is harassed and the service provider coolly skips from the clutches of DOT or TRAI under the pretext of  mistakenly removing the customers number from DND List ??? Sandhu describes his experience with evidence and shares few of his interactions with the Mobile company and DOT.

DoT sent me a case report (copy attached) in which there was no mention/clarification of the unneeded and unwarranted messages being sent at night. This has CONTINUED, and as a result i have had to block ALL messages on my mobile phone for months.They sent hundreds of mid night messages to my number spanning 3 months from January to March 2011.

They did not respond to my hundreds of complaints, starting 09th January 2011, and have also admitted that a number of there employees deliberately did not register my complaints. They gave me a list of names and claimed the only action taken was “warning letters”.

On 08th August, when I tried to activate messages on my phone after months, I was again sent messages at night (2209 HRS), from vodafone (192 and 193). I have visited their CAG meeting held at Haryana on 02nd August, and received no satisfactory solution.
I again wrote to DOT “Sir, you have stated on your website that all discords are between the user and the licensee. In my view this does not relieve you of your duty to guard the citizens from such powerful international companies, who are well known for harassing the people of this nation. A quick look at any consumer forum website will confirm this. It is this kind of inaction by the government that is forcing the people to protest on the streets. You can deny licenses to these companies, till they mend their ways.” In fact even after Mr Randhir Verma, the president of the Chandigarh Telecom Subscribers Association, took this matter up with various TRAI and DoT officials, but the complaint was dismissed as an “individual Grievance”.!!! .
The telecom sector is a booming industry for Marketing for mobile companies and others who want to promote their business but in the midst of that the consumer is the one who goes through all the sufferings because our telecom policy of Do not Disturb, remains name sake and leaves it to get resolved between the consumer and the telecom operators, which will never happen. We at RTI Activist News have tried to highlight the issue of gross violation of DND rules by Mobile Companies, to bring it to the notice of (DOT) Department of Telecommunication or even TRAI, who  have not been sincere in there commitment to the Customers at large and want them to look in to customer grievances and pull up Telecom operators who purposely have been creating problems for the users.
The need of the hour is to bring the Telecom sector (Private Companies) who provide services in India under the purview of RTI Act,even  if not completely but to an extent where the transparency of policies laid down by Government authorities can be verified and if they findings point that the Telecom operators have defaulted on the laid guidelines then action should be initiated under those findings by the DOT and TRAI as they are the Regulating bodies for the telecomm sector.

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