Tariff orders in case of DTH operators set aside by TDSAT

NEW DELHI: The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has set aside the tariff orders drawn up by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in the case of direct-to-home operators.


The judgment follows two separate petitions filed by Dish TV and Bharat Business Channel, in which TDSAT chairman Aftab Alam and member Kuldip Singh clarified that it will be open to TRAI to issue a fresh tariff order after taking into consideration the inputs provided by the appellants and addressing the issues raised by them.


The Tariff Order had been issued by TRAI on 27 May 2013 under the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act 1997 read with notification of 9 January 2004.


The petitioners have alleged that TRAI has no jurisdiction to fix the tariff for the supply of set top boxes (STBs) and there is basis for arriving at the price of STBs. Furthermore, it was alleged that even if TRAI had such powers to fix the tariff or rental for STBs, it has not been exercised lawfully, reasonably and in a non-arbitrary manner and after considering the relevant matters which are required to be considered in price fixation.


Clause 4 of the impugned Tariff Order prescribes tariff for supply and installation of customer premises equipment.


The stand of TRAI is that the operators are offering the services in a bundled form and can spread its costs on the bundled services which include the programming service. TRAI said ‘In view of this fact, the expenditure side of the hardware (CPE) cannot be seen in isolation of the pricing of the bundled service which includes programming service.”


The Tribunal said there was an apparent contradiction in this stand and the main objective of the tariff order which is commercial interoperability. In other words, if a subscriber is not satisfied with the service of an operator or wants to change the operator due to any reason, it is not stuck with the cost of the CPE, it can return the CPE and get its security back at any time.


“In our opinion, one way to address this issue can be to permit the DTH operators to supply recovered/refurbished CPE under the standard tariff order and the subscribers may not insist on new CPE if they want this tariff. However, we may clarify that this is just one example and the respondent is free to address the various issues as it may deem fit. Though all these issues have been raised by the appellants, in our view the same have not been satisfactorily addressed TRAI.”


In view of the above, we find that some elements of cost have not been taken into account and issues raised by the appellants have not been fully addressed by TRAI.

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