Indian telecom watchdog, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has come down strongly against Reliance Communications (RCom) for trying to loot its subscriber’s unspent balances. The regulator has asked the telco if it’s trying ‘pocket’ the unspent balances of prepaid customers and security deposits of postpaid customers after shutting down its wireless operations.
TRAI has also warned RCom to follow its directive, to refund the amount to its customers or would face strict action.
“We have responded to them (RCom), saying either you refund or face action,” said RS Sharma, TRAI chairman told Economic Times. “They don’t have any moral, ethical or legal basis to say that they can’t refund the money,” he added.
The telecom regulator has earlier asked RCom to refund any balance amount of customers by 15th February 2018. However, the telco refused to offer a refund and sent a white paper to TRAI to withdraw its directive. The telco tried to hang on a clause in the mobile number portability (MNP) rule, which says it is not required to give the money back.
According to RS Sharma, RCom had some 50 million customers at the time of shutting down its telecom operations. “And if there is an average Rs 30 balance for each customer, they (RCom) will be enriched by Rs 150 crore”
“This is ridiculous. On the one hand, in a way, RCom has left the customer high and dry, and now it has the audacity to say it will not refund the money. We have given directions under the relevant provisions of the Trai Act. We have the powers to give directions to RCom,” he said.
Explaining the MNP clause that RCom referred, the TRAI chairman explained “What is happening today is a very exceptional situation. In a normal MNP case, I typically exhaust all my balance before I port out because I know I won’t get a refund. But in this situation, the operator (RCom) has shut down services, so the consumer doesn’t have the opportunity to exhaust the balance. Therefore, this is a very abnormal situation,“.