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TRAI REGULATES DTH STB CHARGES
A key clause in every DTH licence states that the DTH STB must be "Interoperable." This implies that the DTH STB from one DTH operator should be capable of being re-deployed to receive signals from any other DTH operator. Unfortunately, this key clause has not been implemented by any DTH operator. They have cited reasons that range from high financial cost for a CAM module to technical incompatibility between MPEG-2 and MPEG-4 STBs.
As a result, in 2013 the TRAI issued its Tariff Order (TO) for DTH STBs, their maximum prices and retail schemes that must be offered to the consumer. The aim was to introduce "Commercial Interoperability" i.e. The option for the consumer to either rent or return STBs if they decide to discontinue any DTH service.
EARLIER ORDER REJECTED
Unfortunately the TDSAT struck down the TRAI's earlier tariff order, asking the regulator to issue a fresh tariff order after factoring in the following:
a) Cost of Consumer Premises Equipment (CPE) such as antenna, LNB etc. and foreign exchange variations.
b) The "Modicum of Profit" to the DTH operator.
c) Financing of the STB subsidy.
d) Protection of DTH operators against consumer defaults. The
TRAI re-approached all DTH operators and requested them for various details after which it has issued the current DTH Consumer Premise tariff order dated 1st April, 2015.
NEW DTH CPE ORDER
On 1st April 2015 the TRAI released 'The Telecommunication (Broadcasting & Cable) Services (Seventh) (The Direct To Home Services) Tariff Order, 2015' which imposes the following:
CPE PRICE DECLARATION
Every DTH operator must specify the price of all types of the customer premises equipment offered, along with the installation charge, the activation charge and taxes, if any.
Every DTH operator must offer the CPE on an outright purchase basis (called 'Standard Scheme').
The price of the Standard Scheme (outright purchase) cannot exceed two times the lowest price of the same CPE offered under any other scheme.
The CPE must also be offered on Rental basis, clearly specifying the refundable security deposit, installation charge, activation charge and the monthly rental charge.
Other schemes may be offered in addition to the standard scheme and rental scheme, for CPE, including a bundle with channel bouquets.
LOCK IN PERIOD
The lock-in period for any scheme cannot exceed 6 months from the activation date.
The installation charge (for all schemes) cannot exceed ` 350.
The activation charge cannot exceed ` 100.
The TRAI may revise the maximum permissible activation & installation charges, from time to time, depending on inflation.
Every DTH operator shall publish on its website the details of all schemes for CPE with their terms and conditions.
COMPULSORY REFUND FOR CPE
Every DTH subscriber must have the option to receive a refund against return of CPE.
For the Standard purchase scheme the refund will be the price of the CPE purchased less a linear depreciation of 1.7% per month since activation.
The full interest free deposit is to be refunded for the rental scheme.
For other schemes, the full price paid for CPE less depreciation @ 1.7% per month (for every calendar month or part thereof) is to be refunded to consumers.
There is no obligation on the DTH operator to take back the CPE if:
a. It is tampered with or
b. It is not in a working condition.
CPE RETURN CENTRES & CHARGES
One collection centre must be setup in every district headquarter, where CPE can be surrendered.
A toll-free telephone number must be provided for registering a CPE return request.
The refund must be made within 15 days of receipt of return of the CPE.
A DTH operator shall, on the request of the subscriber, collect, within 15 days, the CPE from the consumer's premises & may deduct an amount not exceeding ` 300 as collection charges.
No collection charge can be levied if the CPE is delivered to the return centres, by the consumer.
The DTH operator shall not deduct any other charges by any other name on return of the CPE.
There is no obligation on the DTH operator to make any payment for CPE older than 5 years.
The DTH operator must provide the details in the subscription agreement, of repair and maintenance services offered.
The DTH operator shall repair and maintain the CPE without any charge for a period of 3 years from the date of its activation.
Beyond this warranty period, the consumer may be charged, not more than ` 250 per visit.
Every DTH operator must report to the TRAI, within 15 days of launch, full details of any new scheme or modification.
The TRAI may intervene to ensure compliance of the provisions of this tariff order, or to protect the interests of the subscribers and the service providers.
END MAY DEADLINE
DTH operators have been given a time of 60 days to align their business processes for compliance with the provisions of this Tariff Order. n