Cable, DTH Players Forcing Consumers To Choose Packs

TRAI has warned cable TV and DTH players who are found violating its new tariff order for cable and DTH companies, which came into effect on February 1, 2019. The new rules give consumers full freedom to choose their new channels and cable TV packs based on preferences.

However, the new rules also caused considerable confusion among customers, who had to figure out exactly how to choose their new packs and plans. In some cases, it also meant choosing 100 or more channels manually. In many cases, companies are now back to offering curated packs for customers.

“We have received complaints about inconvenience to customers. These complaints relate to software and systems put in place by distributors not enabling true choice for consumers, which is the aim of the whole framework. If choice of channels is restricted…then basic intention seems to be to push packs and bouquets and push your own agenda. That is not the spirit of the regulatory framework,” Sharma told PTI in an interaction.

According to TRAI chairman, while the customer can choose the pack or broadcaster bouquet, if the cable or DTH company was choosing these on behalf of the customer or automatically applying them to the user’s monthly cable bill, then that would be a violation of the new regulations.

“If you disable consumers from exercising their choice, then it is a true violation of the framework. We have taken these things seriously, and we have issued showcause notices to a number of distributors,” the TRAI chief also said according to PTI.

Sharma promised that TRAI will come down “heavily” on any entity which comes in the way of true implementation of its tariff order or causes any inconvenience to consumers.

“We have issued directions to nine companies and issued showcause to five. Soon we will be auditing systems of various service providers to ensure compliance with the new regulatory framework,” he said.
“And consumers should really get the power…don’t try to play with it (tariff order) or circumvent it,” he added.

Last week six cable TV players, including GTPL Hathway and Siti Networks, violated several rules, especially those related to new tariff order, and TRAI directed them to ensure compliance. Other players on the list were Fastway Transmissions, Den Networks, IndusInd Media and Communications (IMCL) and Hathway Digital.

According to the report, these players were forcing channels and packages to consumers, not letting them choose under the new rules. TRAI reiterated that DTH and cable operators cannot force consumers to go in for only predefined packages or bouquets.

So DTH, cable companies allowed to offer bouquets or mini packs allowed?

While cable companies and DTH are allowed to offer bouquets and mini packs on their websites, they cannot forcibly add these to your monthly pack. For instance, Tata Sky announced some Smart regional packs, which list the details of paid channels and the monthly cost starting at Rs 206 and going up to Rs 249. The Hindi Smart Regional pack for example, costs Rs 249 per month.  But as a customer only you can decide whether you want this pack activated in your monthly plan.

What about broadcaster bouquets? Are these compulsory?

Coming to broadcaster bouquets, these are packs, which have been created by the broadcaster and are standard across the board for all cable, DTH companies. So companies like Star Network, Zee TV, NDTV, News18, etc all have monthly broadcaster packs.

These packs bundle a number of the channels from these companies depending on genre and have a monthly cost. The HD resolution packs will cost more. You can add them to your monthly list of 100 or more channels as well. The cable TV or DTH company cannot force you to choose these broadcaster packs. You can go for individual channels instead if that’s what you prefer.―Indian Express

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