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The latest 4G entrant Reliance Jio Infocomm’s fight with incumbent carriers has spilled over from the market with the Mukesh Ambani-led company backing the telecom regulator’s concerns regarding lack of transparency in tariff offers and accusing rivals of making surreptitious personalised offers to select consumers in violation of extant rules.
Jio had alleged that some telcoms are offering special tariff plans to select customers “under the garb of usage and retention,” adding that some of these offers were being communicated to consumers through 10-digit mobile numbers, in complete violation of the present regulatory framework.
Market leader Bharti Airtel, however, has strongly asserted that existing regulations prescribed by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) are adequate to ensure transparency and enable customers to take informed decisions on services and protect their interests, a view also endorsed by third-largest carrier, Idea Cellular.
All telcoms, Bharti Airtel said, are “striving to attract customers through innovative offers,” and customers are perfectly free to switch from one operator to another using mobile number portability (MNP).However, Jio has stressed that certain telecom service providers were offering special tariff plans to select customers, adding that such “clandestine activities,” lead to “more confusion in the subscriber’s mind,” which is why, "all service providers should be mandated to transparently communicate all such offers to subscribers and Trai."
No 2 carrier, Vodafone India, has expressed surprise over the timing and contents of Trai’s discussion paper on tariffs-related regulation, saying most issues raised in the paper are litigation before the Delhi High Court and telecom tribunal, TDSAT, where the regulator and telcos are parties.
“Almost all issues raised in the present consultation fall squarely within the ambit of pending sub-judice matters,” Vodafone India said its submission to Trai.
In a February discussion paper, Trai had specifically sought stakeholder views on the need for additional measures to ensure greater transparency and non-discrimination in telco tariff offers.Jio said it agreed with the “Authority’s concerns on the cardinal necessity of transparency in tariff offerings and the need for transparent communication to end-users”.
Jio's submissions on lack of transparency in tariff offers come less than a fortnight after it had urged Trai to take strongest action and levy the highest penalty against Airtel, Idea and Vodafone India for alleged violation of licence rules, telecom tariff orders and mobile number portability (MNP) guidelines.
In an earlier letter to the regulator, dated April 10, Jio had alleged that said incumbents were using unfair and deceptive ways and putting together customised retention offers for subscribers willing to leave them using MNP. It had also said incumbents were offering special tariff vouchers (STV), packs and discounts to influence users who wish to port out of their networks.
However, in its latest submission to Trai, Sunil Mittal-led Airtel, however, said telcos "are going above and beyond the prescribed norms” by adopting several initiatives to enhance transparency.The Association of Unified Telecom Service Providers of India (Auspi), the lobby body representing CDMA players like Sistema Shyam Teleservices and dual-tech players such as Reliance Communications and Tata Teleservices, also does not see eye to eye with Jio on lack of transparency in tariff offers.
“Apart from complying with different provisions of Trai’s regulations, telecom service provides are also facilitating consumers through various apps, their websites and call centres to ensure they take informed decisions. Regular internal audits of the telcos and the M&B (metering & billing) audit done by Trai has also helped ensuring transparency in tariff offerings and advertisements,” Auspi said in its submission.
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