Reliance Jio, Airtel in another battle over tariff plans

Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel traded accusations around tariff plans in the latest bout, with the new entrant asking the telecom regulator to take the “strongest action” and impose “highest penalty” on Bharti Airtel for violating tariff orders and marketing some plans in a misleading manner.
The market leader, in a statement, denied the allegations, and instead accused Jio of “blatantly” violating the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) directions.
It said that the allegations were “a continuation of Reliance Jio’s standard ploy of blaming others for all its problems, including network deficiencies.” In the latest salvo fired by the Mukesh Ambani-owned telecom company, Jio recently wrote to the telecom regulator about two of Bharti Airtel’s tariff offers — Rs 293 and Rs 449 — complaining that the Sunil Mittal-owned telco was discriminating between 4G and other subscribers — providing headline benefits only to new subscribers with 4G handsets, while others were being given substantially lower benefits on both data and voice.
“At the outset, we submit that in the advertisements issued by Airtel for these prepaid first recharge vouchers are concerned, the free data and voice calls are being marketed in a misleading manner in gross violation of extant telecommunication laws,” Jio said.
Airtel has chosen to create an arbitrary distinction on the basis of subscribers possessing 4G handset and 4G SIM… it has arbitrarily reduced the validity of voice benefits under the same recharge for the same class of subscribers without a 4G handset or SIM to half of that for possessing both 4G handset and SIM,” the newcomer said.
It added that Airtel was running “misleading” advertisements while promoting these two tariff plans. Besides seeking strong action and penalty, Jio asked asked Trai to direct Airtel to immediately withdraw the tariff order and promotional pack, terming them to be non-compliant and in-breach of Trai’s issued directions.
Denying the accusations, an Airtel spokesperson said, “Discounts are a standard lever in the arsenal of any business – be it e-commerce, telecom, insurance or aviation – and companies deploy these from time to time.” Airtel further said that Jio ironically has been offering free services for several months and is now pointing fingers at other operators who are offering discounts to retain their users.
“In fact, it is Jio that that has been blatantly disregarding all guidelines and directions of the Trai,” the spokesperson added. Jio was referring to two offers – Rs 293 and Rs 449 – which give users free unlimited local and STD calls, and 1GB data per day for 70 days in case of a 4G handset and SIM, but a 2G or 3G phone user would only get 50 MB for 35 days, and free calls for the same time duration.
Jio argued that Airtel was offering tariffs in a “grossly discriminating way,” and violated two tariff directions. First, the September 16, 2005 order which outlines that no tariff plan can be offered, marketed or advertised in manner that is likely to mislead customers, and two, the tariff order 1999 Section IV, clause 10 under which a telco cannot discriminate between subscribers of the same class and classification arbitrarily.

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