The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is planning to unveil its guidelines on transparent pricing this week. The telecom regulator is prepared to challenge telecom tribunal’s directions to it on the subject.
The Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) had directed the telecom regulator to act against Reliance Jio for not abiding by the seven-day limit of reporting the Welcome Offer launched in September, 2016. It also asked TRAI to frame guidelines around transparent and non-predatory pricing while clearing Reliance Jio of flouting any rules while offering free voice and data from September 5 to March end through two different plans.
According to the Economic Times, the regulator is an independent body and the tribunal might not have the legal grounds to give directions to it to take regulatory action.
TDSAT has asked TRAI to ensure that tariff plans are not predatory and they comply with rules around interconnect usage charge. “No benchmark or guideline has been provided by TRAI as to when a below cost tariff by a significant market power would become predatory, warranting action,” TDSAT said.
Apart from directing the regulator to take action against Jio, the tribunal also barred carriers from offering “all services” for free without seeking written approval from the regulator. TRAI has also been directed to work out a quick collection and dissemination of relevant data related to subscriber base, turnover, switching capacity and volume of traffic. At present, TRAI gets data on factors such as volume of traffic with a delay of a quarter.
TRAI is already working on the guidelines around transparency and non-predatory pricing through a consultation paper. The guidelines are expected to be issued this week. The issue is mainly raised due to Jio’s introductory tariff plans offering free voice and data benefit from September 5, 2016 to December 31, 2016 and then extending the same benefit under Happy New Year Offer from December 4, 2016 to March 3, 2017 and free benefits extending till March end.
Jio’s free data plans were red flagged by Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular and Vodafone India, the three major service providers in the country. They claimed that Jio’s plans are discriminatory and flouts rules that limit promotional offers to 90 days. In January 2017, TRAI found that Jio’s two plans were distinct from each other and did not flout any regulatory rules.
TDSAT has also agreed with TRAI stating that Jio’s tariffs were non-discriminatory, non-predatory and were found to be consistent with principles of interconnect usage charge. The interconnect usage charge was recently reduced by the telecom regulator leading to huge loss in revenue for Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular.