NGO Asks DoT to Waive Charges for Unused Phone Services in J&K
The letter says the communication shutdown has led to deep emotional, financial and social injuries.
The Internet Freedom Foundation (IFF), on Tuesday, 22 October, wrote to the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) over the levying of charges on unused services in Jammu and Kashmir for over two months.
The non-profit organisation, in its letter, demanded waiver of charges on services that the users were not able to use since August, when the Centre abolished the special status given to the erstwhile state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The letter says that the communication shutdown, which has been in place since 5 August, has led to deep emotional, financial and social injuries.
Quoting a report from The Quint, on the restoration of postpaid phone lines, the letter mentions Airtel's 'Special Gesture' of waiving postpaid charges for Airtel Thanks customers. Appreciating the move, it said that such practice should be a regulatory direction instead of a mere criteria service set up by an Internet Service Provider.
"Without prejudice on the legality and merits of the communications shutdown, we urge your officers to urgently direct on the basis of powers under the Telegraph Act and the UA License Conditions to issue directions to have such charges waived off and any payments refunded for the period when the communication shutdown was in effect," the letter to DoT said.
IFF also cited the 2014 flood in Jammu and Kashmir as an example. It said that BSNL, back then did not charge its customers for the days the service was off due to the floods. It further said that becasue there was no direction from the regulatory body, it amounted to lack of harmony among ISPs.
“We urge the DoT to direct that all licensed telecom service providers in the region to inform all users that these charges have been waived and in case payments have been made by users, these charges should be refunded.”Internet Freedom Foundation letter to DoT
REASONS FOR DEMANDING WAIVER
- Force Majeure: The communication shutdown is a Force Majeure event where users should not faced with charges levied for services they were unable to use during exigent circumstances. There has been sufficient coverage of the significant amount of economic, physical and mental suffering the residents of Kashmir have experienced and the inability to make user of their subscriptions until they clear payments only furthers this as it continues to disconnect them from their friends and families.
- Past practices: In September 2014, Jammu and Kashmir endured severe floods where as per a press report in the Economic Times, affected the delivery of communication services. In response to this, BSNL waived charges period it was unable to provide services much like the current situation. While this sets a good standard, with no direction provided by the DOT to this effect once again creates varying practices amongst ISPs.
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