The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has directed operators such as Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea not to immediately disconnect services of customers with “sufficient” pre-paid balance as it took strong note of telcos asking such users to go in for mandatory monthly recharge plan.
In a bid to boost their revenue, Airtel and Vodafone Idea have announced minimum monthly recharge plans starting from Rs 35.
These are additional charges that the companies are asking despite having a minimum required balance on subscribers account, turning their lifetime SIM connections to one with a limited validity.
According to Airtel, the users have to recharge a minimum of Rs 35 to keep their connection active. If a user failed to do so, their connection will be barred from making calls. And if a minimum recharge is not made within 15 days, it will also disconnect the incoming facility.
However, the remaining balance left on their SIM, if any, will still remain and the operator will deduct Rs 20 every three months to keep the connection active. The company is also providing a grace period of 90 days before a SIM card will be deactivated. A user can recharge with Rs 35 anytime to re-activate the SIM.
Both Airtel and Vodafone Idea have been sending text messages to their subscribers asking them to mandatorily recharge their accounts.
The move is to ensure that revenue is also coming from the users who do not perform any regular recharges. This is quite common with people who usually keep a secondary phone or number just for incoming calls.
The telecom regulator wrote to both companies saying,"Trai has asked operators to duly inform subscribers within three days in a clear and transparent manner the date on which the current validity of an existing plan would expire and the manner in which the subscriber can opt for available plans including minimum recharge plan using subscriber’s available prepaid account balance. Till such time operators should not discontinue services of such customers who have balance in prepaid accounts equal to minimum recharge amount.”
Before Reliance Jio entered the telecom market, it was a happy story for every other network. Since its launch in September 2016, the competition brewed strong among other telecom companies as Jio introduced free services and cheap prepaid plans.
In order to stay in the race, Airtel and Vodafone Idea offer several discounts on their services. However, this resulted in low revenue and quarterly losses.
RIL, the promoter of Reliance Jio, also controls Network18, the parent company of CNBCTV18.com.
First Published: IST