TRAI directs Tata Sky to furnish info about QoS compliance during tussle with SPNI in 2018

MUMBAI: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued a direction to direct to home (DTH) operator Tata Sky to furnish information related to the discontinuation of Sony Pictures Networks India’s (SPNI) channels in October 2018.

The DTH operator was directed to submit the information within 10 days from the date of issue of the direction. The direction is dated 8th July.

In October 2018, Tata Sky had removed SPNI’s channels from its platform due to non-renewal of agreement. Ending almost two months of deadlock, both the parties had reached an agreement in December 2018.

In its reply to TRAI dated 14th January 2019, Tata Sky had stated that it has signed a content deal with SPNI for a fixed amount of Rs. 985 crore for a three-year term with an additional payout of up to 25% of the fixed deal basis viewership.

In the direction, the TRAI has asked Tata Sky to confirm whether the choice was given to the consumer to choose between the proportionate refund and alternate channels.

Tata Sky has also been directed to provide the details of the communication made to subscribers for providing choice to the consumers regarding the refund or refund policy. The TRAI has also sought information if refunds were credited to the subscribers who were not given an option to choose between the proportionate refund and alternate channels.

The DTH operator also has to provide a list of consumers with the amount of the refund credited to the consumers for the period of discontinuance of the channels.

Furthermore, it has been asked to provide the list of churned out subscribers who were to be refunded for the period of discontinuance of the channels along with the details of the amount to be refunded to such subscribers. Finally, the TRAI has asked it to provide a copy of the Interconnect Agreement with SPNI which is in force as on date.

In the direction, the authority noted that it had issued a letter dated 5th October 2018 to Tata Sky asking it to furnish a detailed and comprehensive report including the reasons for discontinuation of transmission of TV channels of SPNI on its distribution network and steps taken to mitigate the grievances of consumers.

The authority noted that Tata Sky in its response submitted that while it was keen to extend the previous arrangement with Sony on mutually favorable terms, however, the negotiation broke down on account of Sony demanding an unusually exorbitant amount.

The DTH operator had also stated that the points urged by Sony by way of various advertisements have been pleaded by them before the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT). The Tata Sky letter added that the TDSAT dealt with these issues and passed a reasoned order rejecting the relief sought by Sony and directing both parties to negotiate and reach a mutually acceptable agreement within a period of four weeks.

The authority, on examination of the response submitted by Tata Sky, observed that it failed to explain the reasons for non-compliance of the DTH QoS Regulations 2007 and also failed to indicate the steps adopted by it to protect the interest of the consumers in the light of the violation of the regulations.

The authority also found out from various newspaper reports that transmission of 26 other channels was discontinued on Tata Sky’s distribution network and accordingly, another letter dated 12th November 2018 was issued to Tata Sky to clarify their stand in respect of such channels as well.

Replying to this letter, Tata Sky submitted that they had issued advertisements in the newspaper on 16th September 2018 as prior notification to their subscribers. It had also stated that the channels were discontinued for reasons of ‘Expiry of Agreement’ and ‘Breach of Agreement’.

Further, the DTH operator had stated that they have provided replacement channels in lieu of the discontinue channels to their subscribers. It had also stated that notwithstanding these replacements, wherever required, refunds were credited back in the account of the subscribers.

The authority vide its letter dated 21st December 2018 informed Tata Sky that it has not addressed the matter in true letter and spirit of the regulatory provisions as there is no clarity on measures undertaken for providing choice to the consumer.

Accordingly, Tata Sky was directed to provide explicit options to consumers highlighting the policy of refunds, as applicable and to submit clear compliance of the relevant provisions, including the details of the refund credited to the consumers for the period of discontinuance of the channels.

Tata Sky, in response to authority’s letter dated 21sth December 2018, requested for some more time to respond to the queries rand informed that they will submit their response by 11th January 2019.

Tata Sky submitted its response vide its letter dated 14th January 2019. However, the TRAI noted that Tata Sky again did not convey the process undertaken to credit the refunds to the subscribers. The authority further stated that the DTH operator also did not provide any details of the communication made to subscribers regarding the refund or refund policy.

Further, Tata Sky said that they have now come to a mutual agreement with Sony and all the Sony channels have resumed transmission on their platform on 5th December 2018.

The authority vide its letter dated 18th March 2019 intimated Tata Sky that their reply has not been found satisfactory as it does not convey the process undertaken to credit the refunds to the subscribers and, any details of the communication made to subscribers regarding the refund or refund policy. Further, the authority stated that Tata Sky’s reply was also indicative of the fact that a fixed fee deal with SPNI has been concluded, and therefore, Tata Sky was requested to explain as to how this is in compliance with the applicable Interconnect Regulations.

Tata Sky, the TRAI said, was also advised to preserve all the relevant data of the said period of disconnect/reconnection of TV channels pertaining to SPNI and TV Today Network. Tata Sky vide its letter dated 22nd March 2019 requested TRAI to grant them time till 1st April 2019 for submitting their reply.

The DTH operator vide its letter dated 29th March 2019, mentioned that it has reached an amicable settlement and resolution several months earlier with Sony and the transmission of all Sony channels had resumed on its platform on 5th December 2018. Further, Tata Sky also provided details of various steps that they undertook to ensure subscriber well being.

In conclusion, the TRAI observed that Tata Sky has continuously failed to comply with extant DTH QoS Regulations 2007 and also provide the details sought by TRAI.

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