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TRAI sides with Jio on controversial promotions

3 Feb 2017

Sector watchdog the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has determined that newcomer Reliance Jio Infocomm’s (Jio’s) ‘Happy New Year Offer’ is not an extension of its previous ‘Welcome Offer’ in a filing with the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), the Economic Times reports. The court had requested the watchdog’s opinion following complaints from several incumbents that Jio’s offers broke regulations by providing a promotion for more than 90 days. At its launch in September last year, Jio introduced the Welcome Offer, providing users with free ‘unlimited’ voice and data services until 31 December, whilst the Happy New Year Offer started on 1 January – also offering ‘unlimited’ voice and data – and will run until 31 March for customers, provided they sign up before 2 March 2017. As previously reported by TeleGeography’s CommsUpdate, Jio argued that the two offers were ‘substantially different’ as the first promotion included a 4GB per day fair usage cap for downloads, whilst the second offer lowered that rate to 1GB per day. Further, the Welcome plan did not provide a way for customers to purchase additional data if they exceed their fair usage limit, whereas the option was introduced for the New Year promotion.

Incumbents Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular have criticised the TRAI for its inaction regarding Jio’s promotional offers, arguing that the regulator has been a ‘mute spectator’ whilst the newcomer has broken the TRAI’s tariff regulations. Indeed, in addition to running longer than the maximum of 90 days for a promotion, the pair also claim that the offers should be considered predatory pricing, as the services are offered at below-cost. TDSAT is set to hear the case on 9 February.

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