No stay on Reliance Jio free offer; TDSAT asks Trai to re-examine issue

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KOLKATA: The Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) on Thursday asked the sector regulator to re-examine Reliance Jio Infocomm’s free promotional services offer and apprise the tribunal on the outcome in two weeks.

Incumbents Bharti AirtelBSE -1.53 % and Idea Cellular had challenged Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (Trai) decision to allow Jio to continue with Happy New Year offer beyond the stipulated 90 days.

They had also urged the telecom tribunal to order Trai to ensure Jio stopped its promotional offer of free voice and data services with immediate effect.

Further, they had contended that Jio’s tariff plan violated Trai’s orders on ‘predatory and non-IUC compliant’ pricing.

TDSAT, on its part, asked Trai “to re-examine the issues” the sector regulator had cited on January 31, 2017, and “take necessary action”, and apprise the tribunal in two weeks’ time. The tribumal however didn’t order a stay on Jio’s free services.

Trai chairman RS Sharma go through the order and would respond appropriately on doing so.

Trai had on January 31 said Jio’s free voice calling and data plan were not in violation of the regulatory guidelines on promotional offers. It also said examination had revealed that Jio’s Happy New Year Offer, launched on December 4, 2016, was distinct from the earlier Welcome Offer and could not be treated as an extension as as the benefits offered under both were different.

TDSAT said “issues relating to predatory pricing, IUC-compliance and non-discrimination would be subject to final adjudication.”

the immediate impact of the TDSAT order on its free services.

However, a person familiar with the matter said there would be “zero impact” on the 4G newcomer’s ongoing free offer since the order is merely “an administrative procedure to ascertain if there is any violation at all.”

Rajan Mathews, director general of the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI), expressed disappointment over the absence of a definitive ruling from the tribunal.

“Predictability and timeliness of decisionmaking are absolutely critical for the industry. TDSAT was set up for that particular purpose, and it is a bit of a disappointment it has just been pushed out and no definitive ruling has been made. Again, it is a judicial process and one must be careful about what one says on this,” Mathews told this newspaper’s TV channel.

Queries to Bharti Airtel and Idea remained unanswered till press time. On March 9, the TDSAT had reserved its order on an interim appeal filed by Airtel and Idea, seeking a stay on Jio’s free promotional offer.