PTA amends consumer protection regulations for telecom sector

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Pakistan Telecommunications Authority (PTA) Thursday amended the provisions of “Telecommunication Consumer Protection Regulations, 2009” to protect consumers’ interests as mandated under the Pakistan Telecommunication (Re-organization) Act 1996. The regulations now provide a mechanism with regard to launch of commercial practices and telecommunication promotional schemes by the operators.

In an earlier consultation paper, the PTA suggested that Cellular Mobile Operators (CMOs) set a price floor which would essentially curtail the volume of promotional offers being offered by CMOs. The authority has given one month to CMOs to give their feedback on the amendments.

According to the amended regulations, prior information is required to be given to PTA for the launch of commercial practices including any telecom service promotional scheme, and is required to be devised in the manner prescribed by the PTA from time to time. All commercial activities, contrary to law, cannot be launched by operators and the operator is required to give at least ten working days prior notice to PTA before the launch of any promotional scheme.

As per amendments in regulations, operators can offer permissible incentives while undertaking any commercial practices. The permissible incentives shall comprise of telecom service related benefit, including, free or additional telecom services, its features, and/or services offered on concessional rates excluding lottery. PTA may alter, restrict, suspend or impose any commercial activity or telecommunication service promotional schemes if deemed necessary and the operator will be responsible to provide title and key features of such activities to PTA.

The operator will be responsible to provide an undertaking that the commercial practice and telecom promotional schemes are in compliance with the Act, Rules, Regulations and all other laws of Pakistan. The operator will be responsible to provide a complete list to PTA of the number, type of the incentives allocated to be distributed to the qualifying consumers, parameters/benchmarks for determining winners and details of mechanism, place and date for selection of qualifying consumers. Furthermore, under the new regulation, an undertaking regarding inclusion of key features of the offered telecom promotional schemes in print media which shall be published in at least one national and local-language newspaper each as well as on the licensee’s, website in a clear, transparent and nondiscriminatory manner.

The amended version of “Telecom Consumers Protection Regulations (2009)” is aimed to further safeguard the consumer rights and interests. After the amendments in the regulation, it is expected that telecom consumers can now approach telecom operators for protection from unwanted and fraudulent communication. The operators are also required to facilitate these consumers under the new regulations.

PTA’s paper highlighted the discrepancy in on-net and off-net tariffs offered by CMOs which is leading to unhealthy competition and price wars, thus impacting the overall industry.