Discuss the implications of Supreme Court mandate to exclude the telecom consumers and services from the purview of Consumer Protection Act. Include the views of parliamentary Standing Committee on IT on this matter in your answer.

The Supreme Court in its judgement of the case, General Manager, Telecom v. M. Krishnan, 2009 observed that, the Section 7-B of the Indian Telegraph Act, 1885 addresses the disputes regarding telecom bills. This judgement implied that filing the same complaint under consumer protection act is not necessary.
It also made a note that Rule 413 and Rule 443 of Telegraph Rules state that, all services in relation with telephone are subject to the special law- Telegraph rules rather than the general law- Consumer Protection Act. This judgement took out the consumer grievances of telecom services from the purview of Consumer Protection Act. 
TRAI Act, 1997 states that the complaints of individuals are not entertained by the Authority but instead are forwarded to the respective telecom operator for suitable action. The same has been reiterated in Telecom Consumer Complaint Redressal Regulations, 2102 set up by TRAI to handle grievances. The mechanism proved to be burdensome on both the consumer and the government. According to the regulations, consumer should complaint with the service provider in complaint center and not in a general court. This can lead to a bias in favour of the provider. If appealed, the central government should appoint an arbitrator to resolve the issue. It burdens the government to appoint an arbitrator for individual cases. 
A Parliamentary standing committee on IT recognised that the grievance redressal mechanism of the telecom sector as grossly inadequate and recommended for setting up of an ombudsman. The same was requested by TRAI twice but the required steps  were not undertaken. The committee also recommended to amend the Consumer Protection Act to include telecom disputes in the purview of the law. It also saw a need for setting up of e-courts to address telecom complaints. Establishing a proper mechanism to resolve the consumer grievances in the largest growing sector of telecom is the need of the hour. A strong framework with adequate personnel will prove beneficial to both the consumers as well as the government. 

Question for UPSC Mains:
Discuss the implications of Supreme Court mandate to exclude the telecom consumers and services from the purview of Consumer Protection Act. Include the views of parliamentary Standing Committee on IT on this matter in your answer. [ET]

Published: January 1, 2018 | Modified:June 27, 2019

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