TRAI on September 30 asked service providers to ensure international mobile roaming (IMR) service is kept 'inactive' by default for all subscribers, and is activated only on explicit request by consumer, as the regulator revamped the framework to protect users from unintentional usage and consequent 'bill shocks'.
The regulator, however, asserted that there is "no need" for direct intervention on price regulation of such services. "…considering the fact that the tariffs for IMR service have been evolving in response to market dynamics and increasing prevalence of IMR packs, as of now there is no need for any direct intervention in the form of price regulation of IMR service," TRAI said in a statement, adding that it will keep a watch and review the situation in future, if needed.
It said IMR service, which allows customer of a mobile operator in one country to obtain service (voice, SMS or data) from an operator in another country using the same handset and mobile number, is one area of telecom services characterised by "significant instances of bill shocks". The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) also outlined a slew of informational measures and disclosures that are required to be made by service providers upfront, to safeguard consumers from bill shocks due to usage of such services.
"…the authority decided to enhance the requirements of provision of information relating to various aspects of IMR service viz. selection of tariff, data usage, availing services in an area which is not covered under the subscribed tariff…," the statement said. Further, to avoid unintentional usage and consequent levy of hefty charges, TRAI has decided that by default the IMR service should be kept inactive "and be activated only on the request from the consumer".
The changes, brought after an industry-wide consultation, have been included in the Telecom Consumers Protection Regulations, 2012 and shall come into effect within 30 days of publication of the same in official gazette, the statement added. "Every service provider shall, immediately on activation of IMR service, provide to the consumer, through SMS, email and mobile application, if available, the following information…the fact of activation of IMR service; and the applicable tariff (if any) for the activation of IMR service (one-time charges as well as recurring charges as may be applicable)," TRAI said.
The revamped regulation also mandate other areas of upfront disclosures to protect consumer interest. It was observed that the existing regulatory framework is not sufficient to address the issues relating to the provision of IMR service, TRAI said and added that it accordingly decided to review the entire process to identify issues requiring regulatory intervention and amend the regulatory framework.