Telecom regulator (Trai) has given a warning to Reliance Communications (RCom) for trying to 'pocket' the unspent balances of prepaid users and security deposits of postpaid customers. RCom was directed to refund the said amount to respective customers maximum by February 15 via three mechanisms, but the company refused and sent a white paper to Trai explaining the same. After shutting wireless operations, a telco needs to refund all the prepaid balances and security deposits to the customers. Trai said that action would be taken against RCom if the telco failed to return the amount.
"We have responded to them (RCom), saying either you refund or face action," Trai chairman RS Sharma said to Economic Times. "They don't have any moral, ethical or legal basis to say that they can't refund the money," Sharma said. He added that RCom must be having an average of 50 million customers at the time of shutting down the operations.
"And if there is an average ?30 balance for each customer, they (RCom) will be enriched by ?150 crore. RCom will have to refund," Sharma added. However, RCom did not reply to the queries sent by the publication.
On January 19, Trai directed RCom to refund all the unspent balances on the network to consumers based on three factors by February 15, 2018. Right after that, RCom asked, "Trai to withdraw its directive and cited mobile number portability (MNP) rules to argue its case that it is not required to give the money back." Furthermore, RCom said that it wasn't sure on what provisions Trai asked them to refund the amount.
"This is ridiculous. On the one hand, in a way, RCom has left the customer high and dry, and now it has the audacity to say it will not refund the money," Sharma further added. Trai directed the Anil Ambani-owned telco only because it received numerous complaints from consumers regarding the balance refund.
"We have given directions under the relevant provisions of the Trai Act. We have the powers to give directions to RCom," Sharma said. Sharma also expressed his view that MNP rules are only meant for normal situations where a customer wants to shift from operator to another operator.
"What is happening today is a very exceptional situation. In a normal MNP case, I typically exhaust all my balance before I port out because I know I won't get a refund. But in this situation, the operator (RCom) has shut down services, so the consumer doesn't have the opportunity to exhaust the balance. Therefore, this is a very abnormal situation," Sharma explained.
As of now, there's no reply from RCom, and it will be interesting to see how the telco responds to these strong words from Trai.