New Delhi: The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has sought the power to levy fines up to 10 crore through amendments in the Trai Act, according to two people familiar with the matter.

The move is part of the regulator’s ongoing campaign to crack down on telcos, many of which fail to meet basic service quality standards.

The two people, neither of whom wanted to be identified, said Trai’s request for more powers is aimed at protecting consumers by enhancing choice, improving service quality, and protecting their data. It is also aimed at improving the quality of disclosure by telcos (to consumers and the regulator).

On 3 June, Trai wrote a letter to the department of telecommunications (DoT) suggesting three key amendments in the Trai Act, according to the two people.

The first amendment has to do with not following the directions of the regulator. This entails a fine of 10 lakh for the first offence and 15 lakh for subsequent ones. Continued defaults could mean an additional fine of 15 lakh a day. Any violation of India’s telecom laws or provisions of the Trai Act will entail a fine of 10 crore.

Trai has also proposed a penalty for furnishing wrong information on returns, books of accounts or other documents. This probably has to do with the understatement of revenue by telcos; all of them have revenue-sharing deals with the government. A recent report by the government auditor said six large telcos were understating their accounts by around 12,500 crore. The telcos claim the issue is not so much understatement as it is definition of revenue.

Trai further wants DoT to ensure that the penalties imposed are independent of any other liability which the telco may have incurred under any other law.

T. V. Ramachandran, president of Broadband India Forum, declined comment. Rajan S. Mathews, director general of Cellular Operators Association of India, could not be reached for comment.

Trai and telcos have been at loggerheads over the issue of so-called call drops (calls that get disconnected).

Last week, Trai released a study that showed most telcos performed poorly in terms of call drops. The study covered Delhi.

Over the next few days, the regulator plans to release similar studies for 11 more cities. On Tuesday, Trai is expected to come out with reports for Bhopal and Hyderabad.

Trai had come out with the study after its earlier move to penalize telcos for call drops was struck down by the Supreme Court, which termed the move “arbitrary".

Trai regulations state that not more than 2% of the calls on a network should be ‘dropped’. Based on these guidelines, in October, Trai suggested penalizing telcos by making them pay 1 to a user for every call drop, subject to a maximum of three dropped calls per day, with effect from 1 January 2016. The move attracted widespread criticism from telcos, which went to court.

Mint learns that Trai’s proposal to seek penal powers from the government is driven by a deeper analysis of the Supreme Court’s verdict, which went against the telecom regulator.

upasana.j@livemint.com

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