Trai begins discussion on regulation of international mobile roaming services

The consultation paper aims to identify specific causes of bill shocks to consumers, evaluate the regulatory framework for adequacy to deal with the issue, review range of voluntary policies and measures adopted by telecom operators in India to prevent instances of bill shocks, and to make suitable changes in the regulatory framework, Trai said in a statement.

PTIUpdated: Tuesday, May 26, 2020, 11:27 PM IST
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Telecom regulator Trai on Tuesday issued a discussion paper on regulation of international mobile roaming services, following concerns over consumer complaints on "bill shocks" due to usage of such services.

The consultation paper aims to identify specific causes of bill shocks to consumers, evaluate the regulatory framework for adequacy to deal with the issue, review range of voluntary policies and measures adopted by telecom operators in India to prevent instances of bill shocks, and to make suitable changes in the regulatory framework, Trai said in a statement.

"The uniqueness of IMR (International Mobile Roaming) Services vis-a-vis other alternatives implies a de-facto monopoly of the home operator and raises concerns of any potential abuse of monopoly power resulting in adverse consequences for the consumer, be it in the form of abusive tariffs (including both higher rates and adverse-related conditions of the usage) or a general lack of transparency in the communication of tariffs leading to bill shocks," Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) said in the statement.

The regulator has also intermittently been receiving a significant number of complaints from the individual consumers relating to bill shocks due to usage of these services, it added.

"Accordingly, it has been decided to review the regulatory framework relating to IMR Services," it said.

Trai has sought written comments on the consultation paper from the stakeholders by June 23, and counter-comments, by July 7, 2020.

Issues thrown up by the regulator for public views relate to the significant differences in tariffs for IMR Service under Standard Rates and international roaming (IR) packs, and how these two rates can be rationalised.

"Should not the IMR service remain inactive at the time of issue of the SIM till the same is activated by the subscriber as a part of the IMR tariff-selection exercise," Trai said.

It has asked if international roaming packs should not apply automatically the moment subscriber's expenses on IMR services exceed the corresponding daily IR pack rate unconditionally for all the countries where such packs are applicable.

The regulator has also asked why IMR tariff should not be counted in 24 hour format on the first use of data, making or receiving a call or sending a text message and renewing the charges for only those 24-hour periods in which the services have been used rather than on calendar day basis.

It also wondered why it should not be mandated for the service providers to send updates in respect of the data usage exceeding certain pre-established milestones such as 50 per cent, 80 per cent, 90 per cent and 100 per cent of the data entitlement.

"Will it not be advisable to mandate the telecom service providers to inform the subscriber by SMS every time the subscriber lands in a country/ area not covered by the IR Pack subscribed, of the fact of roaming in an uncovered zone, and the tariffs applicable thereto? "Would the aforesaid requirement suffice or whether alongside this, the TSPs be mandated to keep the mobile data in the inactive mode and activate only in accordance with the directions of the subscriber," Trai asked.

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