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TRAI launch portal to compare telcos tariffs

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In a welcome move for consumers, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), on Monday, unveiled a tariff portal http://trai.gov.in/tariff which enlists all tariffs plans offered by different Telecom Service Providers (TSPs), for mobile as well as fixed line services at a single place.

While the portal envisages to cover all License Service Areas (LSAs), only Delhi LSA features on the list for now, as the portal is in beta stage. The Beta version will act as a prototype, on which TRAI has invited comments and feedback on “look and feel” from consumers. Based on a general consensus, TRAI, after making necessary changes to make it more effective, aims to launch the portal in 15 days, with tariff information from all LSAs in the country.

Transparency is a critical ingredient to consumer experience and satisfaction, for goods and services, which TRAI has also highlighted in its press release, as being one of its mandate.

The portal will surely bridge the information asymmetry, enable consumers to compare between various telephone services plans on offer and select the most appropriate to their requirements. This may also potentially address the issue of alleged “special and customised retention plans” offered by incumbent TSPs to select consumers, owing to intense competition in the sector impacting their market shares. Such plans are not disclosed in public domain or offered to other consumers, severely denting the aspect of transparency and equity.

Currently, there are too many plans available, which makes it challenging for consumers to select the best fit. Availability of such information in public domain, can enable consumers in comparing between services and plans and making effective and informed choice.

While, transparency in tariff plans is a good start, there is also inadequate information available on Quality of Service (QoS). There are a number of critical QoS parameter, which impact the performance of telecom services and are not disclosed by TSPs.

CUTS International has been advocating for greater transparency in telecom services. One of its initiatives, Consumer Broadband Labels (http://www.cuts-ccier.org/broadbandlabel/), envisages to induce transparency in broadband services, through consumers labels, much similar to nutrition labels on packaged food products. It is proposed that these labels, which should be published by TSPs, must include information on key parameters associated with QoS, such as bandwidth and latency, peak and minimum throughput, downtime, pricing, consumer handling, etc.

Pradeep S Mehta, Secretary, General, CUTS International, while endorsing and appreciating TRAI’s Tariff Portal initiative, said, “TRAI has once again showcased its centricity towards consumers. Transparency is much required in telecom services, especially when the world is going digital and becoming more reliant on Information and Communication Technology. However, transparency in tariff should be seen as the first step and the next should focus on Quality of Services. Let the TSPs fight on quality as well and not just price.”

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