In the ensuing legal battle between the DTH operators, Tata Sky, Airtel Digital TV, Sun Direct and the broadcaster Discovery Communications India against the sector regulator, TRAI, the Delhi High Court has adjourned the matter to April 25. The DTH operators and the broadcaster have challenged the new tariff regime which has been put together and implemented by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI). In the last hearing, Discovery Communications India concluded its arguments. Notably, the broadcaster had started presenting its arguments since the hearing on February 4, 2019.
Chief Justice Asks TRAI to Present Reasoning for Change in Implementation
As per a source aware of the matter, “The matter is adjourned to 25 April as there was a full court reference for a deceased retired Supreme Court judge.” Chief Justice Rajendra Menon and Justice V Kameswar Rao are hearing the matter, the source added. It is worth noting that the extended deadline for migration to the new pricing framework was on March 31. TRAI has claimed that almost all subscribers have made the switch to the new tariff regime with reduced monthly bills. However, several reports are contradicting this statement.
Back in February, seeing the slow pace of subscriber migration to the new plans and channels, TRAI had extended the deadline for the migration to March 31. Further, the sector regulator had also issued a directive for ‘Best Fit Plans’ thus telling the DTH providers to curate plans for the subscribers who have not made the switch to the new pricing framework. The ‘Best Fit Plans’ would be developed as per usage pattern, language and channel popularity, the sector regulator said.
On February 13, Delhi High Court Chief Justice Rajendra Menon questioned TRAI about altering the implementation of the new tariff regime without proper intimation to the court. The chairperson of TRAI was also asked to submit an affidavit explaining these changes and the precise reasoning behind them within a week.
Broadcaster and Operators Challenge Trai Authority
The sector regulator has been saying again and again that the monthly rentals would not go up post-transition to the new tariff regime, but many subscribers have reported the opposite. Surveys and reports have also surfaced in plenty which reveals that the monthly rentals have gone up for DTH providers. If the experts are to be believed, then the new TRAI tariff regime has caused the subscription costs to rise, and this rise in prices will push the consumers more towards the OTT platforms. Also, the DTH providers have done away with network capacity fee on some of their long term plans to reduce the churn rate of subscribers.
Back in 2017, Bharti Telemedia, the holding company of Airtel Digital TV, Sun Direct, Tata Sky and Discovery Communications had filed a petition against the regulator questioning its tariff order and the interconnect regulations. Star India had taken a different legal approach by challenging the regulatory powers of TRAI. In the Delhi HC matter, the companies have questioned the regulator’s authority to wipe out deals that these companies made to fix commissions and rates for customers.―Telecom Talk