1. Reliance Jio free data offer plan extension: Wrong call by Trai

Reliance Jio free data offer plan extension: Wrong call by Trai

In order to fully appreciate the issue let us refresh the background. Jio had announced its “Welcome Offer Plan”offering free voice and data services on September 1.

By: | Updated: December 29, 2016 7:55 PM
Reliance Jio, Free Data Plan, Trai, Airtel, Happy New Year Offer In order to fully appreciate the issue let us refresh the background. Jio had announced its “Welcome Offer Plan”offering free voice and data services on September 1. (Source: IE)

Recently, newspapers were abuzz with the news “Trai asks Jio to explain free data plan”. The appearance of this news on December 27, while the letter was written by Trai on December 20, is perhaps a reaction to the filing of petition by Airtel against Trai in TDSAT.

In order to fully appreciate the issue let us refresh the background. Jio had announced its “Welcome Offer Plan”offering free voice and data services on September 1. This was considered predatory and anti-competitive by the existing operators, and they sent a joint representation to the regulator to look into the matter. Following which Trai had several rounds of meetings with the interested parties and came to the conclusion that this promotional offer announced by Jio will be restricted to December 3. Promotional offers as per the Trai directive can be allowed upto 90 days. Based on this clarification which perhaps had the assurance from Jio as well, the operators decided to let this offer pass. But well before the last date of the Welcome Offer, Jio, in a press event on December 1, announced that it had acquired more than 50 million customers in a record time and that it shall continue with the free voice and data services under its “Happy New Year Offer”.

“….I want to announce today… That starting December 4, 2016, Every new Jio user will get Jio’s Data, Voice, Video and the full bouquet of Jio applications and content, absolutely free, till March 31, 2017. We are calling this the “Jio Happy New Year Offer”. During this offer period, Jio and Jio customers, will be able to continue our journey of co-creating and building the best network experience together. All our 52 million plus Jio Welcome Offer users will continue to enjoy the unlimited benefits of Jio Welcome Offer till 31st December, 2016.”
This offer apparently and prima facie is a promotional offer, and therefore has to be compliant with the Trai directive. However, it appears that Jio not only violated the directive with this new offer but also violated with regard to the earlier welcome offer as well because:

The subscribers who were acquired under the “Welcome Offer” from September 5, were entitled to the benefit of that promotional plan only till December 3, where as per its own admission they have been extended the benefit till December 31. Similarly, the customers acquired on or after December 4, have been extended the benefit of promotional offer from December 4 till March 31, 2017.

So, whichever way you look at it, a violation was committed by Jio on December 4. But Trai is equally to blame, as instead of taking the matter into cognizance it has allowed its directive to be violated.

As far as the new offer is concerned, one may argue that it is new promotional offer. However, details of the new plan show that it is nothing but only a camouflaged version of the existing offer. And,this is clear from Jio’s announcement on December 1.

“We have noticed that 80% of Jio users consume less than 1 GB of data daily. One GB per day is still a substantial amount of data. In fact, it is 30 times the average usage on other networks!
But, the other 20% of users consume disproportionately higher amounts of data, and we have observed that this disproportionate usage contributes significantly to the congestion. In short, 20% of the users create a poor experience for the other 80%. So, in the Jio “Happy New Year Offer”, we have fine-tuned our Fair Usage Policy to ensure that all users get a fair share of Jio’s network capacity.”
The above announcement clearly shows that the new offer is nothing but a fine tuning of the fair usage policy. Moreover, this offer is extended en mass to the entire subscriber base without giving any option for an alternate tariff plan.

Just for the sake of argument even if it is a new promotional plan, did the Trai directive specify that one could continue to offer promotional offers. Time and again courts have upheld “what cannot be done directly cannot be done indirectly”. So, Trai should have either intervened and directed Jio to keep the plan in abeyance till fully examined or directed Jio to put a caveat in all its communication that the plan is under consideration and in the event it is found to be violative, the customer will be charged as per a plan approved by the authority.

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But by not exercising any of these options, Trai has allowed the customer to be exposed to a risk. Further, the speed with which the the entire matter is being handled is inexplainable. Having become aware of the violation onDecember 1, Trai sent a show cause notice to Jio only on December 20. As expected Jio has sought an extension of time to submit its reply which will allow them another couple of weeks. While submitting the reply, Jio will also seek personal hearing which TRAI will allow in the name of upholding the principles of natural justice.

After this personal hearing Jio will take another few weeks to submit written submissions of the proceedings. Subsequent to that Trai will take a few more weeks to arrive at a decision. By the time all this happens, it will already be April 1, 2017, and the “Happy New Year Offer” would have fully lived its life.

The author is founder and CEO, Tathya Consulting. Views are personal

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  1. G
    Guulap rana
    Mar 7, 2017 at 3:10 pm
    Thanks for Jio offer
    1. N
      Jan 17, 2017 at 9:50 am
      Iam not totally satisfied with this new welcome jio offers... Just 1G.b 4g data par day plan is so poor... When I just stating to seen a h.d . Movie.. it's to quick to end....
      1. R
        Ram karan
        Jan 25, 2017 at 9:48 am
        Thanku to owner of Jio because any person is happy because first time found long offer in mobile company so we and my family is very happy
        1. s
          swarup.k. dasgupta
          Jan 20, 2017 at 12:45 am
          I favoured and agreed with the subjects.
          1. K
            Feb 15, 2017 at 9:36 am
            jio is my life so iam very enjo thanks to jio owner
            1. K
              Feb 15, 2017 at 9:40 am
              my life is your jio sir so please don't stop schemesir,my friends are used in jio sir please don't stop sirwe are very thanks to sir we are waiting for one year offer sirjio is 1one of most por network sir we ca
              1. K
                Keshav tomar
                Feb 21, 2017 at 10:10 am
                The best plan which support my studies
                1. X
                  xain ul abideen
                  Apr 16, 2017 at 7:03 am
                  Its best plan for everyone but all peoples make jio life o f them and u are one of them
                2. M
                  Dec 30, 2016 at 4:10 pm
                  Very well stated. Airtel, Idea and other telcos are trying to obstruct Reliance Jio from giving services at reasonable rates. If not for rjio, THESE CROOKS WOULD HAVE CHEATED PEOPLE.
                  1. R
                    Dec 29, 2016 at 8:55 am
                    I think Jio decided to extend its offer in the first place because inbents like Airtel and Vodafone unlawfully denied enough POIs for Jio users to properly experience Jio and it's services. Jio is only being kind to the customers for the problems they faced, and is obviously also seeking to enroll more users into their network. Airtel was the one who first started playing ugly and should not expect fair treatment at this juncture. Go Jio!
                    1. D
                      donald dias
                      Dec 30, 2016 at 1:25 am
                      It appears that Narender Gupta Founder & CEO of Tathya Consulting is being paid by Bharti and other telecom operators to do their dirty bidding. They have looted Indian people for a long time and would have continued forever, if not for Reliance Jio. Where was Gupta when telcos were robbing people with their high tariffs?
                      1. D
                        donald dias
                        Dec 30, 2016 at 1:42 am
                        Narender Gupta should first disclose that he is heading the regulatory affairs team for Airtel. Writing biased articles in favor of the company without disclosing his affiliation is malicious and misleading to the readers. It is only because of R Jio that people are able to cut their bills into more than half. Gupta, don't try to fool people they are far smarter than you.
                        1. My Take
                          Dec 30, 2016 at 4:51 am
                          Such a biased author given that he is paid by the Inbent Telcos!TRAI should simply let Jio provide free services for whatever period Jio deems it needs to be able to become a serious player in terms of subscribers. Let the telcos deck it out and TRAI should stay the heck out, if India has any hope to progress to a digital world. Airtel and the other inbents have been fleecing the Indians far too long at 10 years! Clearly, INDIA AND INDIANS WIN when Jio is unleashed!
                          1. P
                            Dec 29, 2016 at 6:32 am
                            Paid rant lol
                            1. stud nitin
                              Dec 29, 2016 at 6:08 pm
                              Boss stfu. U shouldn't be vg be problems if end people in India get beneed. Laws are for beneficial behaviors. Don't let your paid professionalism come into play here. Jai Hind
                              1. S
                                Dec 29, 2016 at 4:16 pm
                                paid journalism :D
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