Many direct-to-home consumers who paid for quarterly, half-yearly or annual packs are feeling cheated after their service providers terminated their contracts under a new tariff regime that allows subscribers to pay only for channels they choose. These consumers had opted for long-duration packs before the new tariff order set by the TRAI came into effect in February. But according to TRAI’s order, all the consumers who had opted for long term packs were to be automatically shifted to the ‘best fit’ plan from February.

These customers were then, as per the order, migrated to new monthly packs and plans that were hardly comparable in terms of channel composition or pricing. When they were migrated to ‘best fit’ plans, the money they paid for the whole year was refunded to their account based on number of days outstanding. However, the refund was not done to their credit or debit cards, but to their DTH account, with no way of withdrawing that money. This effectively trapped them, as they could not migrate to another provider before using up their balance. In other words, they were stuck with their provider and had to choose from whatever plans and packs they were offered. But that is besides the point.

TRAI last week issued directions to most of the DTH players to reinstate the long-duration packs of their customers in all cases where the subscriber did not ask for a migration to a new plan and held that cancellation of such long term packs and forced migrations were illegal. They are bound to provide services to long term plan subscribers (including multi TV subscribers) till the contracted period without any change unless the subscriber opts out of it or the validity of the long term plan expires, whichever is earlier; which contradicted their own order, like there was no confusion about their order already.

This so called direction by TRAI to the DTH players last week was like irony shooting itself in the head. While they say ‘why migrate a consumer when he didn’t ask for it?’ they should also realize it was they who forced this chaotic order on everyone and created a mess that looks too dirty for anyone to even want to clean up. While they say this new order is to benefit the consumers, they themselves seem to be having no clue as to the rules of this new order and keep pushing and extending it every two months. Also, do they want people to migrate to the new order or do they want to continue with the old? They should make up their minds first before putting the country through such an ordeal and that too for something as small but vital as cable TV. While a lot of consumers are trapped many have just chose to disconnect TV services completely and get their entertainment through the OTTs, be it films, shows or even sports. While they tried to create a dam on a fl owing river in an attempt to not flood a village, they ended up doing exactly that with their intervention anyway. As I write this I still sit here and wonder, what’s the upside to all this? This is as pointless as life is to an existential nihilist.

By – Amul Vikas Mohan Trade Magazine