TRAI today told the Delhi High Court that it has taken a decision on various telecom service providers’ representations against the free offers of Reliance Jio (RJIO) and it will be communicated to them by tomorrow.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), however, did not disclose in court what it has decided, saying it will be communicated tomorrow to the telecom companies, like Bharti Airtel, Idea and Vodafone, which had made the representations.
The telecom regulator submitted before Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva that its decision will be placed before the court by the next date of hearing on February 6. The submission by TRAI came during hearing of a plea by telecom major Vodafone India which has claimed that the regulator failed to prohibit “blatant violation” of its tariff orders, directions and regulations by RJIO by permitting it to continue with its free offers.
Vodafone has claimed that TRAI has not implemented its own circulars which lay down that all tariffs must be compliant of inter-connection usage charges (IUC) and be non-discriminatory and non-predatory. Vodafone contended that each day’s delay by TRAI in implementing its tariff orders was causing a huge loss to the company.
During the hearing, RJIO contended that on October 20, 2016 the telecom regulator had decided that its free offer from September 5, 2016 to December 3, 2016, was not non-compliant of IUC, not predatory and not discriminatory and this order has not been challenged by Vodafone.
TRAI submitted before the court that the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) was approached by Airtel and Idea against the free offers and the tribunal had directed the regulator to take a decision by February 1.
The regulator told the court that TDSAT was today informed that a decision has been taken and that it would be communicated to the companies which had moved representations before TRAI.
Vodafone has contended that “the free i.e. zero tariff plan/promotional offer of said operator (Jio) with no charges at all for services, is ipsofacto non-compliant with the ‘floor’ as stipulated by TRAI in its own tariff orders, is IUC non compliant, predatory and discriminatory and thus violates the TRAIs tariff orders and regulations.
“It is submitted that the said promotional offer was and continues to be in blatant violation of cardinal regulatory principles as IUC charges being the floor for the retail tariffs,” the telecom major has said.
Vodafone has contended that TRAI itself in 2002 had told all telecom service providers that “promotional tariffs cannot exceed 90 days upper limit”.
“The free offerings were illegal and also violates the 90 days upper limit fixed for any promotional offer (with) 90 days expiring on September 18, 2016 (even if counted from June 21, 2016) and in any event on December 3, 2016.
“The subsequent promotion offer proposed to be ending on March 31, 2017 is also violative of, inter alia, the said principle of ‘floor’, as also the said 90 days upper limit, … and the respondent has not taken any steps to stop the blatant violation by the said operator and continues to act in a non-transparent manner,” the petition has alleged.
Vodafone has further claimed that due to TRAI’s “arbitrary, irregular action/inaction”, RJIO, “in the garb” of ‘test service’ or preview offer, amassed millions of subscribers by offering them free services during the so-called test period.
“Thereafter, the said operator launched its services commercially with effect from September 5, 2016 and continued to offer free services under the garb of promotional offer known as ‘Welcome Offer’ and promised free services to its consumers until December 31, 2016,” the petition has said.
Vodafone has sought direction to TRAI to “fully implement/ensure compliance of each and all regulatory and legal principles” laid down in the tariff orders, directions and regulations by the regulator or any other authority as well as to ensure that RJIO does not violate them.