TRAI seeks AG opinion on Jio promotions

18 Jan 2017

Sector watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has asked the Attorney General to weigh-in on whether or not the free services provided by Reliance Jio Infocomm (Jio) should be considered predatory pricing, the Hindu writes. Jio’s ‘Welcome Offer’ and ‘Happy New Year Offer’ have provided customers with free voice, data and messaging services since the cellco’s launch in September 2016 and are due to last until the end of March 2017 – potentially allowing subscribers six months’ connectivity at no cost – and the move has sparked a price war as the nation’s incumbents fight to compete with Jio’s aggressive strategy. The regulator has also come under increasing pressure to act against the newcomer, with both Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular filing cases with the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) against the TRAI. Accusing the watchdog of being a ‘mute spectator’ in the matter, the pair claim that the TRAI should have taken steps against Jio for extending its promotion beyond the 90-day maximum permitted. Under the TRAI’s rules, Jio’s Welcome Offer should have ended on 3 December rather than 31 December, and the extension to 31 March would not be allowed.

For its part, the TRAI last month requested clarification from Jio on why its promotional offer should not be considered predatory. Jio justified its extension of the deal by saying that the Welcome Offer and Happy New Year Offer are ‘substantially different’ as they feature differing fair usage limits for data, the first allowing up to 4GB per day and the latter 1GB per day. The first deal also did not provide a way for customers to purchase additional data once they exceed 4GB, whereas the option was introduced for the current promotion.