Originally published in Financial Express

After RBI, it’s now Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) that has cracked the whip on outsourced agencies that harass consumers for outstanding dues. Issuing guidelines on Friday prescribing a code of conduct for outsourced agencies, the regulator said telecom operators must have a transparent policy on recovering dues, without affecting the rights of consumers. Trai asked each operator to post its policy and formal code of conduct on its website for the information of consumers. A Trai statement made it clear to operators that engaging an outsourced agency “does not absolve them of their responsibility to fulfil their obligation to consumers”. The guidelines come in the wake of complaints received by Trai from consumers about methods adopted by service providers for the collection of outstanding dues.

Trai said service providers were obliged to ensure an effective complaint handling mechanism for billing and that before a case was given to an outsourced agency, advance intimation be given to a customer regarding outstanding dues.

Service providers will now also have to publish the names and telephone numbers of their outsourced agencies and their authorised staff on their website. Agents of the outsourced agency are permitted to call consumers only from the telephone numbers published on these websites between 8 am and 9 pm.

Besides, the agency should have a clean record and meet selection and eligibility criteria. Agents are also expected to wear photo identity cards.