TRAI issues new tariff order for DTH Customer Premises Equipment

NEW DELHI: While declaring that there will be transparent and upfront declaration of installation and activation charges by direct to home (DTH) operators, which will not exceed Rs 450, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) said that the operators will have to mandatorily offer an outright purchase scheme called Standard Scheme for all types of Customer Premises Equipments (CPEs) on a standalone basis.

In the new Telecommunication (Broadcasting and Cable) Services (Seventh) (the Direct to Home Services) Tariff Order 2015 issued today, TRAI said the aim was to prescribe a framework for commercial interoperability of CPE offered by the operators to their subscribers.

The order says subscribers shall have the option of returning the CPE by paying a nominal collection charge of Rs 300 to the DTH operator or to return the CPE at the designated collection centre.

DTH operators can levy no other charges by any other name other than those specified in the order on the subscribers.

The operators have been given a time of 60 days to align their business processes for compliance with the provisions of the new Tariff Order.

The order provides for transparent price declaration of all types of CPEs by the DTH operators to enable a subscriber to make an informed choice.

Other than the Standard Scheme, the operators may offer additional schemes including bundled schemes and rental schemes.

In the rental schemes, DTH operators can charge a specified one-time interest free refundable security deposit, installation and activation charges from the subscriber during enrolment followed  by specified monthly rental charges. No repair /maintenance charges are permissible from such subscribers.

DTH operators will cater for free maintenance and repairs of CPEs for three years after installation/ activation. In case of outright purchase and hire purchase schemes, DTH operators may levy visitation charges not exceeding Rs 250 per visit after the warranty period has elapsed.

Subscribers shall have an option of buy-back/refund for CPEs in all the offered schemes including bundled schemes with the exception of rental schemes where the subscriber will get back the security deposit.

DTH operators may prescribe a lock-in period not exceeding six months for a subscriber to remain committed. Subscribers can surrender the CPE any time subject to levy of certain charges that have been prescribed.

DTH operators will setup collection centers at every district headquarters to enable easy return of CPEs. Subscribers shall be provided with a toll-free telephone number for registration of request for surrender of connection.

The operators will declare all current schemes on their websites while also publishing all charges for each scheme. Subscribers should be given details of the scheme opted by him.

DTH services in India have been growing at a rapid pace since they were introduced in 2003. Today, there are six private operators offering DTH services to around 73 million subscribers. As these operators have launched the services at different points of time, deploying different transmission and compression standards and encryption solutions, the CPE deployed by one operator may not be compatible with the network of another operator. Therefore, if a subscriber wishes to migrate to another DTH operator or cable TV platform, he is required to invest in the CPE/STB of the other operator. It has also been observed that there is a lack of transparency in various schemes offered by the operators in the market.

The Authority is of the view that the DTH operators in this regard can largely protect interests of consumers through the provision of commercial interoperability of CPEs and mandating transparent and upfront declaration of all charges and conditions at the time of providing service. Commercial interoperability provides for an exit option to a subscriber in case he wishes to change the operator and avail the services from another DTH operator for any reason.

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