Telecom regulator Trai will “look into” the complaints about operators doling out customised retention offers to influence subscribers who want to shift to a rival network. Trai Chairman RS Sharma asserted that all offerings by operators need to be transparent, non-discriminatory and filed with the regulator but refused to be drawn into the specifics. “If these complaints have come, we will certainly look into them. Because the tariff has to satisfy the criteria of being transparent and being non-discriminatory. So these principles have to be followed…we will look into that,” Sharma told PTI.
He was responding to a query about Trai views on newcomer Reliance Jio’s recent allegation that incumbent operators are lining up customised retention offers for subscribers wanting to shifting out of their network. In a letter to Trai last month, Jio had termed such methods as being “unfair and deceptive”, and claimed that the offers were being presented to customers “surreptitiously” on a one-to-one basis and not available to the general public.
Nor are the companies openly publicising such offers on their website as is stipulated, Jio charged, demanding that “strongest action” against the three operators – Airtel, Vodafone, and Idea Cellular — for what it termed as a gross violation of Trai’s norms. “I remember having discussions in Trai in one of the meetings that such complaints have come. But I have not seen the specific complaints,” Sharma said. While it may be natural for operators to play up offerings and the strength of their networks to the departing customers, telcos cannot offer plans that they do not file with Trai, he said.
“If someone tries to leave, people will tell him ours is the best network, that is part of the business. (But) I don’t think any operator should be giving a plan which is not given to Trai…or is not a part of their standard set of plans,” he said. As per the norms, while tariffs are under forbearance, every plan has to be filed with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) within 7 working days from its launch.
Asked if the regulator will call operators for a meeting to discuss and resolve the issue, Sharma said the matter was still in a “preliminary” stage. “This is preliminary…we will certainly take necessary action within the framework of our regulation,” he emphasised. Admitting that business rivalry comes into play when operators compete in a hyper-competitive market, Sharma said that the regulator will have to look into every complaint and take a call.
In its complaint, Jio had alleged that the 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. However, Airtel and Vodafone had refuted Jio’s allegations saying they were in compliance of all regulatory guidelines including tariff orders and mobile number portability regulations.