TRAI to Telecom companies: Cease Misleading Tariff Advertisements

trai The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) today issued an order to the telecom service providers to stop releasing “misleading tariff” advertisements, in an attempt to curtail unethical advertising and also to improve transparency. The telecom watchdog has directed mobile operators to publish advertisements that are transparent and do not mislead the public while doing away with ambiguity. According to TRAI, a tariff advertisement is considered misleading if it induces a customer to subscribe to a plan, to which he would have ordinarily not subscribed. Also, if the advertisement contains an incorrect statement, or some material facts and attached restrictions are missing, it can be considered misleading to the ordinary consumer. The telecom regulator’s statement contained the following directions:
  • TRAI stated that advertising a certain tariff-rate as “Per minute” or “Per second” is misleading in situations when the pulse rate tends to be more than one second or one minute.
  • Advertising a lower call rate in the form of “invitational call rate” shall be termed misleading if the rate carries an additional start-up charge or in situations where the first minute usage carries a greater charge compared to the declared rate.
  • Advertising a particular discounted call rate/SMS charge shall be termed misleading in cases where it fails to point out that the reduced rate is valid only after a certain amount of usage.
  • Advertising a tariff scheme with a title that claims zero rental charges would be termed misleading if the plan has a recurring compulsory fixed charge in any form. ‘Zero Rental’ and ‘Rental Free’ plans also fall in this category.
  • Advertisement of a particular call rate or SMS charge shall be considered misleading if these rates are valid only for on-network usage and these key constraints are not indicated clearly within the advertisement.
  • Advertisement of the titles of tariff plans or any other packages or schemes, that claim unlimited usage, shall be considered misleading in such cases where the conditions of such a plan or scheme package place constraints  on the amount of usage in any possible way, even on the basis of Fair Usage Policy etc.
  • Advertising a scheme/pack as ‘Free’ would be considered misleading if there exists a limit on the daily usage and such restriction is not suggested in the advertisement.
  • Advertisement of a scheme/plan with a reduced call rate or SMS charge shall be considered misleading if such reduced rate is valid only during a certain period.
  • Advertising a particular discounted STD/ISD rate as the normal rate would be considered misleading if these STD/ISD rates are valid only for calls to certain regions/countries.
  • Advertisements that leave out certain important terms and conditions attached to a set of tariff rates, including the ‘validity period’, would be considered misleading in such situations where the stated tariff benefit is applicable only for a certain time period.
  • Advertisement of  a tariff scheme as ‘Per Second Plan’ would be considered misleading if the special tariff is applicable for a  certain duration only
  • Advertisement of a reduced rate without specifying the fixed fee to be charged to the subscriber with regard to availing the discounted rate shall be considered misleading when such terms and conditions aren’t mentioned clearly within the advertisement.
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