Reliance Jio seeks Trai action against Airtel, Vodafone, Idea for violating rules

Reliance Jio has asked the telecom regulator to take “strongest action” and levy the “highest penalty” against Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular for alleged violation of licence rules, telecom tariff orders and mobile number portability (MNP) guidelines, in the latest round of accusations, which India’s top telcos refuted.
In the latest letter to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) dated April 10, Jio said that the incumbent telcos were using “unfair and deceptive” ways and putting together customised retention offers for subscribers willing to leave them using MNP. It added that the incumbents were offering special tariff vouchers (STV), packs and discounts to influence users who wish to port out of their networks.
The Mukesh Ambani alleged that these offers are being presented to subscribers “surreptitiously” on a one-to-one basis and that the same offers are not available to the public.
It also claimed that such customised MNP plans are in violation of the tariff order as the subscriber selection criteria is not disclosed by the carriers.
“At the outset, we submit that as far as these MNP offers are concerned, these are in gross violation of extant telecom laws including Telecom Tariff Order, 1999,” Jio said. No. 1 telco Bharti Airtel and Vodafone India denied these allegations.
“Bharti Airtel is in full compliance of all regulatory guidelines including Tariff Orders and MNP regulations. We categorically deny these allegations,” a spokesperson said. In its response, Vodafone India said it caters to the specific needs of its subscribers.
“As our customers needs are diverse, we offer them exciting and engaging propositions catering to their myriad requirements, in accordance with applicable norms, regulations and industry best practices,” it said.
Idea Cellular did not respond to a query sent by ET on the allegations.
Jio also alleged that the call centres of these operators were providing “false and malicious” information to subscribers regarding the service quality and network coverage of the new entrant. “The call centre recordings reveal a vicious campaign underway to defame and vilify the services being offered by Reliance Jio,” it alleged.
Reliance Jio has said that such practices are in violation of tariff reporting requirements of Trai and breach the limit of 25 plans (prepaid and postpaid) allowed as per regulations to operators.
Reliance Jio has urged Trai to “take cognizance of the vilification and defamation campaign underway against RJIL” by the operators, and direct them to “cease and desist” from such tactics.
Jio’s latest allegations add to a bitter war of words being played out between the Mukesh Ambani-owned telco and incumbents over the last several months since the newcomer’s entry last September on issues such as trial of services, points of interconnection and interconnect charges.
The latest round of accusations and letters have been recently made by Airtel and Vodafone which have accused Jio of violating rules around free offers, with the sectoral watchdog scrapping the newcomer’s latest Summer Surprise offer.
They have also challenged the free offers in court and the telecom tribunal. Jio has said all its plans are legally compliant.