HC may bar mobile cos from charging extra during festivals

File PhotoThe Madras High Court bench today issued notice to 10 mobile companies on a petition seeking to bar them from charging extra for SMSes during festival seasons and important days.

The bench issued notice while admitting a petition by a lawyer, seeking a direction to the companies and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) not to hike the tariff for this period.

Petitioner Arunachalam also sought an interim stay on undue and sudden hike on SMS charges during important festivals and special occasions like New year's eve on December 31 2011 and January 1 2012. He contended that mobile companies offered attractive packages while enrolling customers, including 200 Free SMS for Rs one a day, 50 paise per SMS but later announced they would maintain special SMS tariffs on December 31.

This forced users to restrict SMS and curtailed private space and free communication on important festival days. TRAI was also not taking steps to control it, he alleged. He said mobile operators, regardless of tariff plans would charge Rs 1.50 per SMS on Dec 31, "which is unfair." Last year SMS revenue of the companies was Rs 100 crore, he claimed.

The petitioner said users are being charged extra at a time when they want to use their mobiles the most, "fully violating natural justice and rights given in the constitution." Among important days on which extra tariff was collected was Pongal, Christmas, New year, Valentines day, Independence day and Diwali, he said.

The bench after hearing him, ordered notice to the TRAI chairperson and Zonal/Regional Managers of 10 companies Bharti Airtel ltd, Aircel Ltd, Vodafone, Reliance, Idea Cellular, Unitech, Tata Docomo, MTS mobile, BSNL mobile and Videocon and posted the case for further hearing on January 21 2012.

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