In its latest move, state-owned telecom operator Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited has asked the permission of Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) for generating e-bills by default for its subscribers. The telco has asked for the consent of the regulator whether or not it can give out soft-copy of the bills to its customers unless requested otherwise by the customer to hand over the hard copy. Trai, in the coming months, is going to come up with a discussion paper to proceed on the same issue.
As reported by PTI, the news comes from an official aware of the matter. The official also told that previously the watchdog had made it compulsory for all the telcos to give out hard copy bills to the users and if they wanted to opt the other way of electronic format, they would have to ask for ‘explicit’ consent from the users. In all the other cases, it was mandatory for the telecom operators to issue hard copy bills to the postpaid subscribers. Another official added to the discussion saying that a known private telco had also asked for similar permission.
The official remarked "Since we have received some requests...we will have a consultation on the matter over the next 1-1.5 months. We will throw up for a discussion questions like whether the current system should continue or be modified, the ramifications of any change for people who are not IT-savvy or those living in rural areas, and the solutions.”
Despite the mandatory rule of issuing hard copy bills, BSNL took help of the digitisation movement and green movement to build its argument for e-bills. The telco proposed that the company could adopt an 'opt-out' model wherein the bills will be issued in e-format to the customers on their emails and phones unless they were opting-out to receive paper bills instead.
BSNL’s official letter to Trai read "...it is submitted that BSNL issues printed bills and receipts to a large number of customers every month. Due to inertia, only a few customers turn up to opt-in for receiving a soft copy of the bill. Hence, BSNL is bound to issue a printed copy of bills and receipts to customers.” BSNL further said "Those who are still desirous of getting printed bill may opt out to get e-bill, by revert SMS/e-mail or registering their request by making a "missed call" on a pre-defined number or any other mechanism advised by Trai.”
The state-owned telco also added to its reasoning saying that a detailed advertisement of the ‘opt-out’ scheme can be done to spread awareness about the process.
Regarding this issue, PTI reached out to Cellular Operators Association of India, the industry body which represents all big telcos of the country. Director General of COAI, Rajan Matthews answered to the questionnaire in the matter saying "Further, customers wanting a hard copy of a phone bill, can be given the option of sending an SMS to ask for it, much like requests are made in case of chequebooks.”
He also voiced his statements similar to BSNL and highlighted that e-bills should be the default way for the telecom operators, and he also remarked that this new process would primarily be in sync with government’s steps towards digitisation.