Ombudsman in telecom sector

With the advent of competition, the telecom sector has seen a tremendous growth in the recent past - both in terms of number of operators and subscriber base.

In view of increasing grievances among consumers in the telecom sector, TRAI recently recommended setting up of Ombudsman's office to deal with consumer complaints.

Along the lines of the existing Ombudsman in the banking sector, TRAI is planning to have an alternate `watch dog' mechanism through appointment of a Ombudsman.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) issued a Consultation Paper on `Establishment of the office of Ombudsman in the telecommunications sector' in order to enable it to make significant improvement in the orderly growth of the sector, taking into account the interests of both service providers as well as consumers.

The TRAI Act provides that the authority shall lay down `standards of quality of service to be provided by the service providers, ensure quality and conduct a periodical survey of such service so as to protect the interest of consumers'.

Though there is no system in place to redress individual consumer complaints (which are to be addressed by consumer courts/fora) or disputes between service providers and group of consumers (which are to be addressed by the Telecom Dispute Settlement Appellate Tribunal), the authority keeps on receiving complaints from the general public both pertaining to the problems of individuals as well as of generic nature.

"The Authority is of the view that the best recourse for establishing an Ombudsman would be to make an amendment in the licence for which the licensor has full power and authority", Trai said.

The detailed recommendations are available at TRAI's website www.trai.gov.in.

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