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TRAI partly argues in matter vs DTH operators, Delhi HC adjourns case to 9 May

TRAI argued partly during today’s hearing

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MUMBAI: The Delhi High Court on Thursday adjourned the petition of DTH companies Tata Sky, Airtel Digital TV, Sun Direct and broadcaster Discovery India Communication contesting the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and its new tariff order to 9 May after the matter was argued partly by the regulator. The last two hearings held on 11 April and 25 May were adjourned without any significant development.

Based on numerous complaints from consumers, TRAI in a directive dated 1 May directed Tata Sky, Sun Direct, Independent TV and Dish TV to comply with all aspects of the new regulatory framework especially those related to the migration long-duration pack (LDP) subscribers. 

TRAI asked the four DPOs to "desist from migrating long-term plan subscribers to any new plan till the contracted period ends, unless the subscriber opts out of it or the validity of the long term plan expires, whichever is earlier", allowing them seven days to comply with its directions.

Last month, Discovery India concluded its arguments in the matter, which is being heard by Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V Kameswar Rao.

Notably, the extended deadline for consumer migration under the new regime expired on 31 March. While TRAI has repeatedly said most consumers have moved to the new regulatory framework, with a reduction in cable bills, several reports have claimed otherwise.

Earlier in February, the regulatory body extended the deadline to pick channels under the new regime till 31 March as well as gave a directive of Best Fit Plans. The subscribers that don’t opt for new channels would be moved to ‘Best Fit Plans’, which would be developed as per usage pattern, language and channel popularity, the sector regulator said in its statement.

Chief Justice of Delhi High Court Rajendra Menon on 13 February questioned TRAI for altering the implementation process of its new tariff regime without informing the court. The chairperson of the sector regulator had also been directed to file an affidavit within a week explaining these changes.

While the regulatory body has continuously declined that cable bills would go up under the new regime, several reports, as well as surveys, have indicated the hike in the monthly bill. Due to the change in pricing, many experts predicted that consumers would shift to OTT platforms eventually. To decrease the churn rate, some of the DTH players have removed network capacity fee for long duration packs.

In 2017, Bharti Telemedia, Tata Sky and Discovery Communication India had filed petitions against TRAI, challenging its tariff order and the interconnect regulations. Unlike the position adopted by Star India wherein it questioned the regulatory powers of TRAI, the matter in the Delhi HC questions the regulator’s power to wipe out deals that operators enter into to fix commissions and rates for customers.

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