Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Chairman R S Sharma said the regulator is seriously looking to introduce a new mechanism for telcos who're shutting down the services or operations to return the unused balance of prepaid customers. In recent times, there are a lot of small players who closed their operations or merged with other telecom top telecom operators, and Trai has also asked the operators to disclose the unused balance details.
Sharma mulls ways for companies closing the operations to return unused balance. One of the possibilities Trai looking is to credit the unused balance in the prepaid account to the customers Aadhaar-linked bank account via a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) model.
"The mechanisms being weighed include such telcos crediting the unused amount to the Aadhaar-linked bank accounts of their consumers in a Direct Benefit Transfer (DBT) type model," Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) Chairman R S Sharma told PTI.
"We are very clear in our mind that we will find ways to ensure that customers get back their money. We will evolve a procedure and mechanism for doing that, and specific instructions will be issued in this regard quickly," he added.
Sharma also stated that this is an essential step because the amount won't be a small one as it "involves hundreds of crores". He also asserted that the issue is certainly a customer one, and the regulator will make all the efforts to ensure that consumers in such situations do not get 'shortchanged.' The unused amount should be given back to the customer at any cost.
"We will find a way to ensure that customers... if there is a balance remaining with operators... that such balance comes back to the pre-paid consumers. Maybe we will try out something like DBT...It certainly can be done leveraging Aadhaar-linked bank accounts," he said.
Furthermore, the regulator is considering to discuss the matter with specific telecom operators who're closing the services for a detailed discussion on the matter. Trai will discuss with the operators on how can they get give back the unused balance to customers. R S Sharma also added, "Let the operators also come up with solutions."
So far, telecom operators such as Reliance Communications and Aircel announced the shut down of operations. Trai asked RCom to submit the unused balance details of users who moved out of the network.