Telcos will need to deposit unclaimed consumer money – like excess charges and security deposit, which could not be refunded — towards ‘telecom consumers education and protection fund’ after a stipulated period, Trai clarified on Thursday. “The authority observed that there is a need to bring clarity among service providers in depositing money which they are unable to refund to the consumers,” Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said.
The regulator said it was therefore felt that an amendment in the related regulations should be undertaken to remove any kind of ambiguity and facilitate deposit of any unclaimed money of the consumer. The Telecommunication Consumers Education and Protection Fund Regulations of 2007 offers a basic framework for depositing unclaimed money of consumers by service providers, maintenance of the fund and other aspects.
The income from the fund is utilised for programmes and activities relating to consumer education and protection. As things stand today, any excess charges revealed in the billing audit should be refunded to consumers. However, if a service provider is not able to refund the amount despite its attempt within the time period permitted by the regulations, it has to deposit the unclaimed/unrefunded amount to the fund. Accordingly, service providers have been depositing such unclaimed amounts to the fund.
However, Trai had noticed that certain inconsistency on the grounds on which money is being deposited by operators. “Interactions held with service providers and analysis of the amount deposited, have revealed that while some service providers are depositing money only on account of excess billing revealed in the audit, some other service providers are depositing unclaimed money such as security deposits and plan charges of failed activations which they are unable to refund to the consumers because of non-traceability of the consumers,” Trai said while notifying the amendments to the said rules.
After considering the comments of the stakeholders, the regulator has now notified the fifth amendment to the regulations. “With this amendment service provider will deposit any unclaimed consumer money of any form such as excess charges, security deposit, plan charges of failed activations, or any amount belonging to a consumer, which service providers are unable to refund to consumers, to the fund after providing time of twelve months or period of limitation specified under law whichever is later,” the regulator said.