Regulators

Arguments in DTH operators’ petition against TRAI tariff order to resume on 4 April

Senior counsel Gopal Jain argued on behalf of Discovery

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MUMBAI: The Delhi High Court on Thursday adjourned the petition of Tata Sky Discovery India Communication, Airtel Digital TV and Sun Direct challenging Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) and its new tariff regime to 4 April. According to sources close to the development, the next date of hearing was granted after the matter was partly argued by Discovery counsel Gopal Jain. The next hearing will commenced with arguements from the broadcaster's counsel.

It must be noted that the extended deadline for consumer migration under the new regime will expire on 31 March.

While the 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, the regulatory body in February extended the deadline to pick new channels under 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.

On 4 February, after senior lawyer Kapil Sibal, representing Tata Sky, concluded his arguments including legal submissions, Jain laid the foundation for his arguments.

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.

TRAI chairman RS Sharma claimed on Wednesday that almost all TV customers have been migrated to the new tariff regime. “Most of them have subscribed to the new regime or some of them have been put to a ‘best fit’ package. As the deadline of 31st March approaches, everybody will come onto the new platform,” he said as quoted by news agency IANS.

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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