The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Wednesday asked cable and satellite TV providers to allow consumers to access and modify their subscription plans via TRAI app.
In a media statement, TRAI announced amendment to the quality of service and consumer protection regulations. The sector regulator mandated distribution platform operators (DPOs) to share their application programme interfaces (APIs) with it.
As a result, consumers of both cable and DTH companies can access channels or bouquets and also select or delete channels of their choice and view subscription details on the regulator’s app or portal.
TRAI secretary SK Gupta said that the regulator is in the process of finalising API specifications, which will be communicated to DPOs. The operators will have to share and exchange information through API with TRAI whenever the authority asks for the same.
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Why Did TRAI Adopt This New Mechanism?
To ensure proper implementation of the new framework, TRAI took several initiatives such as a series of meetings with distribution platform operators, publicity in electronic and news media, and interactions with customer groups. “Despite this, TRAI was in receipt of several complaints from the consumers that they are not able to choose the TV channels conveniently on the web portal/ apps of the DPOs,” it said.
The complaints being referred were ignited with an unprecedented surge in the cable bills post a new framework, which led to a 25% fall in subscribers in the April-June quarter. TRAI had notified the ‘New Regulatory Framework’ for Broadcasting and Cable services, which came into effect on December 29, 2018. Under this notification, the customers had the freedom to select the television channels of their choice and let the broadcasting company know the same.
Recently, while several consumers have written about their concerns to TRAI, the cable TV association has written against the tariff order, accusing broadcasters of misusing the provisions.
The reports have listed challenges that were faced during the transition. The report also said the confusion, ill-trained customer support staff and forced ‘best-fit packages’ from most of the players led to opposite results from what were initially intended.
As a result, a TRAI report showed that Direct-To-Home (DTH) services had an average active subscriber base of 72.44 Mn in January-March quarter. This has gone down to 54.26 Mn, a 25% fall in the quarter that ended on June 30, 2019.
As the competition in the DTH space intensifies with Airtel, Reliance Jio etc amping up their game, TRAI’s efforts to retain consumers’ interests become much more challenging.