Regulators

Jio freebies: TDSAT puts off Airtel-Idea hearing to May

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NEW DELHI: The Telecom Dispute Settlement and Appellate Tribunal has put off to early next month the petitions by Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular challenging the decision of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India to allow Reliance Jio to continue free offers beyond the stipulated ninety days.

Both operators have alleged anti-competitive practices by Jio that has led to losses of several hundred million rupees. Reliance Jio had created a flurry when it appeared just two months before demonetization with free offers,

The Tribunal will hear the petitions on 3 May, along with an interim application moved by Airtel objecting to the alleged delays by Jio while withdrawing its three-month complimentary ‘Summer Surprise Offer’. The inaugural free voice and data plans had been launched by Jio in September last year and extended in December till March 2017.

Airtel and Idea moved the tribunal against the TRAI order that allowed Jio to provide free services beyond the stipulated period. Airtel also objected to the continuation of the scheme’s benefits for those who had already subscribed to the said offer before it was withdrawn. Jio had offered subscribers to continue with concessional rates if they had been on its rolls by 31 March.

TRAI had on 31 January held that Jio’s free voice calls and data plan were not in violation of the regulatory guidelines. It held that the ‘Happy New Year Offer’ launched by Jio on 4 December 2016 offered different benefits and was therefore not the same as the earlier Offer. Earlier this month, Airtel moved the TDSAT on alleged delay by Jio in withdrawing its ‘Summer Surprise’ offer.

The interim application pertains to the Summer Surprise plan of Reliance Jio under which it was giving three-month complimentary offer of unlimited data usage and free calls on payment of a minimum Rs 303, which was withdrawn after TRAI said that it was not in accordance with the regulatory framework.

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