Deadline for picking TV channels under new regime extended till 31 Mar: TRAI

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has extended the deadline for consumers who have not exercised their options under the new pricing regime till 31st March. The deadline is not applicable for those subscribers who have exercised their choice under the new regime.

The regulator has also directed the distribution platform operators (DPOs) to migrate customers who have not exercised their options to a ‘Best Fit Plan’. It further stated that the old plan of the subscribers will continue till either subscriber has exercised his/her option, or he/she is migrated to the ‘Best Fit Plan’.

It further stated that subscribers will be free to change their ‘Best Fit Plan’ at any date and time on or before 31st March 2019 and DPOs shall convert their ‘Best Fit Plan’ into the desired pack (channel/Bouquet) within 72 hours from the time choice exercised by the subscriber.

It also clarified that there will be no ‘lock-in period’ for the subscribers till 31st March 2019 who has been migrated to ‘Best Fit Plan’ by DPOs.

According to the TRAI, the ‘Best Fit Plan’ shall be designed based on consumers’ usage pattern, language spoken and popularity of channels. It should preferably be a blended combination of various genres while making ‘Best Fit Plan’ for a subscriber, DPOs should ensure that payout per month of the ‘Best Fit Plan’ generally does not exceed the payout per month of existing tariff plan of the subscriber.

The authority took this decision after a few cases were reported recently whereby pay channels of the subscribers who have not exercised the options have been deactivated by the DPOs.

In view of these issues and to assess to status of implementation of new framework, the TRAI had called a meeting of all direct to home (DTH) operators and major Multi system Operators (MSO) on 11th February.

The DPOs informed that implementation of migration was in full swing and they stated that subscribers who have exercised their option have been migrated to the new framework. They also said efforts are being made to reach out to remaining subscribers. They further assured that in no case any inconvenience would be caused to any subscriber in the whole migration process.

“In view of the larger public interest, the Authority directs all DPOs that those subscribers who do not exercise their options shall be migrated to a ‘Best Fit Plan’. The subscribers’ old plan shall continue till either subscriber exercise his/her option, or he/she is migrated to the ‘Best Fit Plan’. The Authority hereby, vide this press release, extends time up to 31st March 2019 for exercising the option by such Subscribers who have not exercised option yet,” TRAI said in a statement.

The TRAI had notified the ‘New Regulatory Framework’ for broadcasting and cable services in March 2017. The new framework came into effect on 29th December 2018. However, to provide sufficient time to subscribers for exercising their options, the authority had provided time up to 31st January 2019. All the DPOs were required to migrate the subscribers as per their choice with effect from 1st February.

TRAI also said that approximately 65% of the subscribers of the cable services and 35% subscribers of the DTH services have already exercised the options, as on date. There are approximately 100 million cable service TV homes and 67 million DTH TV homes in the country.

It was also brought to the notice of the authority that as the system of selecting channels/bouquet by the subscribers had been introduced for the first time in the country, some subscribers were facing difficulties in selecting the channels/bouquet of their choice.

In some cases, the local cable operators (LCOs) have not been able to reach out to the subscriber to create awareness among them and collect the options. Many subscribers may be required to go to nearest Point of Sale (POS) for exercising their option as they did not have access to IT facility or have not comfortable in using IT system to exercise their options.

DPOs should continue to provide various user-friendly methods to subscribers to exercise their choice. These methods may include personal contact by Local Cable Operator, calling on Call Centre Number, using Mobile Apps or through Website. DPOs should also continue to generate awareness among the subscribers regarding new Regulatory framework, its benefits and methods to exercise the option to choose the channels of their choice.

The authority further reiterated that subscribers who have taken long term packs will continue to avail the services for the contracted period. However, they have the freedom to choose the channels of their choice under the new regulatory framework and in case if they exercise this option, money for the remaining period shall be adjusted for their future use.