The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has introduced new rules obliging operators to compensate customers for dropped calls. The new regulations – dubbed Telecom Consumers Protection (Ninth Amendment) Regulations, 2015 – come into effect from the 1 January 2016 and will require cellcos to credit the account of the calling customer with INR1 (USD0.015) per call drop, to a maximum of three dropped calls per day. Cellcos will also call or message the consumer within four hours of the call drop to inform them of the amount credited to their account and, for post-paid customers, detail the extra credit in their next bill. The TRAI expects the new regime to ‘provide relief to the consumers from the issue of call drops to some extent and spur the service providers to improve the quality of service (QoS),’ adding that it would ‘keep a close watch on the implementation of the mandate, as well as the measures being initiated by service providers to minimise the problem of dropped calls.’
The TRAI explained that it had rejected requests from consumer rights activists for operators not to charge for the last pulse of a dropped call, taking into consideration the technical difficulties of implementing such a plan. During the consultation process, India’s mobile operators had claimed that the main causes of the QoS issues were: spectrum limitations; finding new sites for towers, due to customer concerns over electro-magnetic radiation; and municipal authorities sealing or closing down existing sites for towers. A joint letter from the heads of Vodafone India, Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular, Reliance Communications (RCOM), Tata Teleservices (TTSL), and Sistema Shyam TeleServices (SSTL) to the TRAI in September this year claimed that 70 sites had been closed the previous month alone, with 1,700 closed over the course of the year. According to the operators, for every 40 sites closed down there is a roughly 20% increase in call drops.