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Telecom companies ask TRAI not to penalise them over minor service issues

Telecom companies have asked the sector regulator to take a pragmatic view on levying penalties, especially over marginal deviations from quality of service benchmarks as some of those may have been c

Carriers have argued that deviations may have been due to unforeseen circumstances, system failures or factors beyond the control of the carriers, for which they should not be penalised, and have sought for individual hearings to explain their stand.

ET reported that in a letter to the telecom regulator last week, the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) said that “We request that these nominal or marginal deviations from the prescribed benchmarks should be waived off and no financial disincentives should be imposed on the operators”, adding that certain marginal deviations were not material enough to attract financial disincentives when many customers were being served.

Rajan Mathews, the association’s director-general, said Trai needed to work with the carriers to address systemic issues, “instead of continuing to slap on penalties which are often quashed or reduced substantially by the courts”.

The new rules have toughened the parameters determining call drops, with penalties of a maximum of Rs 10 lakh for every violation. The likely latest penalties, or financial disincentives, will follow show-cause notices that were sent out by the regulator in early March, after going through the call drop data submitted by all carriers including Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India, Idea Cellular and Reliance Jio.

In its May 3 letter, COAI also flagged cases in the past where for minor deviations in the previous quarter, no financial penalties were imposed, but said that of late, the penalties had been compounded to the maximum limit, factoring in consecutive violations.