Telecom operators, including Bharti Airtel, Reliance Jio, Vodafone Idea Limited (Vi) and Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) have opposed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) proposal for licensed service area (LSA)-level audit requirements in the draft Quality of Service (Code of Practice for Metering and Billing Accuracy) Regulations, 2023. As per telcos, the move would lead to duplication of work and wastage of resources as tariffs are mostly common across markets and billing systems are centralised.

Earlier in February 2023, the TRAI had released its draft regulations suggesting that all telcos get their metering and billing systems as well as respective LSAs audited for access services by an auditor once every financial year. Further, telcos were instructed to divide the LSAs across the four quarters to cover all service areas in a financial year. The draft regulations also suggested punitive action if a telco fails to comply with the audit requirements. To this end, a financial disincentive of Rs 100,000 per report for every week that the default continues, amounting to a maximum of Rs 5 million per metering and billing system per LSA.

In its response to the TRAI’s draft regulations, Airtel stated that excessive provisions related to metering and billing would inhibit telcos’ ability to conduct business. Further, the telco stated that it had not come across any similar practices in terms of metering and billing audits being followed for telcos internationally.

Meanwhile, Jio said that there is no need to conduct audit for each LSA, as the tariff configuration will remain unchanged for all LSAs and no purpose will be served by auditing the same for all 22 LSAs. It added that the requirements should pertain only on effective communication through app and website and the audit should limit itself to monitoring the said communication through these mediums only.

Further, Vi stated that conducting audits at multiple layers of various tariff vouchers would require additional manpower, increase in audit periodicity and may cause unnecessary delays in audit-related activities and would be akin to over-regulation. Hence, it should not be contemplated, Vi added. Moreover, BSNL noted that the proposed penalty was exorbitant and the objective of regulation should not be to penalise service providers but the improvement of the system.