RCom opposes TRAI’s directive seeking refund of unspent balance of subscribers

New Delhi: Reliance Communications (RCom) has opposed the telecom regulator’s directive asking the company to refund unspent balance of mobile subscribers, in the wake of discontinuation of its voice services.

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is, however, of the view that the demand on customer refunds is fully justified as it pertains to premature closure of services by an operator and therefore can not be equated with general network port outs cases.

A senior TRAI official said that since it is the case of a service provider closing services the “customers must get their unspent balance”.

“The situation is not similar to general port out by a consumer, where consumer chooses the timing of porting out from one network to another network.

Here, a service provider has closed services and therefore protection of consumer interest is a must” added the official who did not wish to be named.

Reliance Communications (RCom) declined to respond to an email query on the issue.

However, sources familiar with the development said that the service provider has shot off a letter to TRAI arguing against the regulator’s January 19 directive on refunds.

In the letter, RCom has cited the Mobile Number Portablity Regulations 2009 to highlight that the existing rules mention that the balance amount of talktime at the time of porting “shall lapse”, the source pointed out.

“We regret to say that we are unaware of the exact regulation under which a provision exists for refund of balance amount of talk time on a mobile number being ported out for any reason whatsoever … we request authority to withdraw the direction … ” the source said quoting from RCom’s written representation to TRAI.

Meanwhile, RCom is preparing another follow up letter to TRAI where it has further argued that there is no precedence of customer refunds being sought in several other cases of operators closing down services in the Indian telecom market.

On January 19, the TRAI had directed Reliance Communications (RCom) and Reliance Telecom (RTL) to refund the unused balance of their prepaid customers and security deposits of their post-paid subscribers and report compliance in the coming weeks.

The direction for refund is “pursuant to closure of 2G/GSM, CDMA services and discontinuation of voice services in all the licensed services areas by Reliance Communications Limited (RCL) and Reliance Telecom Limited”.

The move comes at a time when RCom has announced plans to sell its spectrum, towers, optical fibre network and other wireless assets to Reliance Jio, the telecom firm of elder brother Mukesh Ambani-led Reliance Industries.

The industry estimates the blockbuster deal to be valued at Rs 24,000- 25,000 crore.