The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) has dismissed a petition filed by the Nasik District Cable Operators Association (NDCOA) challenging the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAI) regulation on billing.
The petition was dismissed in the light of the Supreme Court ruling that the TDSAT does not have the right to adjudicate cases involving TRAI regulations and the same can be challenged only in High Court or a Supreme Court.
The Nasik cable operators’ body is now planning to challenge TRAI’s digital addressable system (DAS) regulation on billing in the Bombay High Court. “We will challenge the regulation in the Bombay High Court next month,” said NDCOA president Anil Khare.
The NDCOA had on 3 October challenged the TRAI’s regulation to allow multi-system operators (MSOs) to directly bill subscribers, bypassing the local cable operators (LCOs).
The TRAI regulations stipulate that the MSOs have the right to raise monthly bills to subscribers.
As per the regulation, the cable TV subscriber shall be billed generally on monthly basis and the bill shall contain the Service Tax Registration Number and the Entertainment Tax Registration number of the MSO.
This is the second case to be dismissed by the TDSAT after the landmark judgement by the apex court. The tribunal had in November dismissed a plea filed by the News Broadcasters Association (NBA) and a clutch of music and regional channels challenging TRAI’s power to cap ad duration on television channels at 12 minutes per clock hour.
The Gujarat Cable Operators Association (GCOA) has already challenged the DAS regulations in the Gujarat High Court, which has asked the government to file its replies in the case.
Billing has become a hot button issue in the cable TV distribution industry. The LCOs fear that the MSOs will wean away their subscribers if direct billing is allowed.
Left with no other option, as the regulations are legally binding upon everyone in the ecosystem, the LCOs in different states have taken the legal route to prevent direct billing from happening.
This has given nightmares to the MSOs, who have not been able to reap the benefits of digitisation despite investing millions in the process.