NEW DELHI: Rejecting demand for giving penal power to telecom regulator Trai, Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar has said the authority has enough power to protect the interest of consumers.
"It is intimated that Trai is empowered by the Trai Act to lay down the standards of quality of service to be provided by the service providers...so as to protect the interest of the consumers of telecommunication service.
"Since Trai has wide ranging powers, the need to change the Trai Act is not felt at this juncture," Prasad said in a letter dated June 9 to MP Rajeev Chandrasekhar.
There was no immediate reply to query made to the Telecom Ministry over the matter.
Chandrasekhar had written to Prasad over net neutrality which included reference to consumer rights in telecom and internet space like privacy, quality of service norms.
"Trai has to have broad power to protect consumers. There is need to for legitimate public debate on this. Entire technology sector has changed since the time Trai Act was made. I believe that the regulator must have more power," Chandrasekhar said in the letter.
To check the call drop menace and improve compliance to its rules, Trai has approached the Department of Telecom (DoT) to amend the Trai Act to empower it to impose fine of Rs 10 crore on operators as well jail term of up to two years to company executives for any violation of regulatory framework.
The move came after the Supreme Court on May 11 quashed a Trai order which mandated mobile service providers to compensate Re 1 for every call drop with maximum of Rs 3 a day.
Telecom operators are lobbying hard against giving penal power to Trai, and has termed such powers as 'draconian'.
Telecom Secretary J S Deepak too has said that giving penal power cannot be "one and final solution" to the call drop menace. "I am not sure penal power will be one and final solution to this. In my personal opinion I do not agree that for every call drop a person has to be sent to jail," he had said after a review meeting with telecom operators last week.
Most of the mobile service providers have frequently failed in quarterly sample call drop tests conducted by Trai but telecom operators have contested the results saying that they comply with benchmark set by the regulator.
Responding to net-neutrality concern raised by Chandrasekhar, Prasad said, "Regarding net neutrality regulation issue, it is intimated that Trai had initiated public consultation on over-the-top service vide its consultation paper which included specific reference to net neutrality."
The DoT has sought Trai's recommendations on net neutrality and the regulators recommendation will be taken into account by the department in arriving at final viewpoint on various aspects of net neutrality, he said.
At present, disputes between consumers and telecom operators are not taken up by consumer courts as a Supreme Court judgement of 2009 had barred seeking any such relief under the Consumer Protection Act, saying a special remedy is provided under the Indian Telegraph Act.
The National Telecom Policy 2012 envisages to undertake legislative measures to bring disputes between consumers and telecom service providers within the jurisdiction of consumer forums established under the Consumer Protection.
The Policy envisages "to review the TRAI Act with a view to addressing regulatory inadequacies/ impediments in effective discharge of its functions" but government is yet to execute it.