Competition regulator CCI clearing DTH operators including Tata Sky and Reliance Big TV of charges of market dominance abuse in the set-top boxes case has been challenged by a consumer rights group.
The Competition Commission of India's March 2011 order closing proceedings against the Direct-to-Home operators over denial of interoperability to customers by changing Conditional Access Module (CAM) cards has been challenged by Consumer Online Foundation (COF).
A COMPAT bench headed by its Chairman Justice V S Sirpurkar admitted the petition by senior advocate A N Haksar, appearing on behalf of COF.
The tribunal listed the matter for hearing on September 5.
Passing an order in March 2011, CCI had closed the case against DTH operators, saying they have not abused their dominant market position by not allowing interoperability.
The COF in its complaint before the CCI had alleged that such a practice restricts choice of a DTH customer to enjoy the services of another DTH operator.
Under the present situation, they will have to buy a new STB from the new operator as a customer can not change CAM cards in its STB.
According to COF, DTH services should be offered on the lines of mobile phone services where a consumer can use services of any telecom operator by changing the SIM card in his/her phone.
However, the CCI and its probe unit Director General of Investigations had said that there was no abuse of dominance and the DTH market was fairly competitive.
The CCI said that there are techno-economic issues involved in making STBs interoperable. Moreover, the price of a CAM card, which is scarce in the market, is much higher than the price of a STB.
"We see no reason as to why the DTH operators should not give clear choice to subscribers to outright purchase, hire-purchase or rent the STB as mandated under the Direct to Home Broadcasting Services (Standards of Quality of Service and Redressal of Grievances) Regulations, 2007," said CCI.
It had ruled out that there was a collusive agreement between the DTH operators for not allowing interoperability.
"The practice of supplying STB/CAMs by DTH service providers along with the subscription is not due to any tacit agreement or action in concert, but due to limitations of the existing technology and its cost," the competition regulator added.