Reliance Communications Ltd has been directed by a consumer forum here to pay Rs 10,000 to one of its subscribers as compensation for its "malpractice" of changing his tariff plan without his consent.
The East District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum also held that Reliance Communications, being a private service provider, is not a telegraph authority and hence, it cannot avail the immunity available under a Supreme Court verdict exempting telegraph authorities from the purview of Consumer Protection Act in telecom matters.
A bench headed by N A Zaidi said the matter was "a clear cut case of malpractice thriving in the telecom industry at the hands of the service providers like the respondent (RCL)" as the telecom major could not show the TRAI circular on the basis of which it had arbitrarily changed its subscriber's tariff plan.
As Reliance had "erred to file" the TRAI circular to defend its action, the forum observed that "it is farcical to believe that an authority will vest such sweeping powers to anyone working under it as it would be ultra vires the powers conferred by the Central Government upon such authority (TRAI) and would curtail the Fundamental Rights of the complainant."
"Failure to place on record the said circular leaves no room for doubt that no such circular had ever been issued by the TRAI conferring such one-sided powers which are against the public policy upon the mobile phone service providers," the forum said.
The order came on the complaint of Delhi resident Jugnu Jayant who had alleged that his unlimited tariff plan was changed by Reliance Communications without his consent.
The company in its defence had said that as per a TRAI circular it is empowered to change the tariff plan of any of its customers after a period of six months from the date of activation of the said plan.
It had contended that it being a telegraph authority, the complaint against it cannot be entertained by the forum.
Rejecting the telecom major's contentions, the forum directed it to restore the tariff plan of Jayant.