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Airtel sends limited details to Trai on segmented offers

Airtel didn't share names and addresses that Trai had wanted — a move that may spark a fresh conflict.

Updated: Apr 24, 2019, 11.35 AM IST
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Airtel has submitted details of its segmented offers, or those given to specific individuals, to the sector regulator but stayed away from offering specific details sought by the sectoral watchdog.
NEW DELHI/MUMBAI: Bharti Airtel has submitted details of its segmented offers, or those given to specific individuals, to the sector regulator but stayed away from offering specific details sought by the sectoral watchdog, a move that could spark another confrontation between the two sides.

India’s largest telco Vodafone Idea, on its part, sought a 15-day extension from the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to submit details – which is likely to be accepted - while Reliance Jio is expected to submit its data on Wednesday.

An Airtel spokesperson confirmed sending the details to Trai last week, but declined to share further details.

But a person familiar with the matter said Airtel has not shared all the specific details, including customer names and addresses that Trai had sought, but only shared price points and the number of users.

“Any more specific details would have compromised on Airtel’s competitiveness in the market,” the person added.

A senior Trai official told ET that Airtel’s submissions are being examined and further action will be taken subsequently, as needed. “Vodafone Idea has said it will require additional 15 days to submit the required details on segmented offers, citing their recent merger.”

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Vodafone Idea and Jio did not respond to ET’s queries.

In the first week of April, Trai asked telcos to submit their tariff plans as well as segmented offers being provided to subscribers, in 15 days or by April 25. It had asked the operators to share details such as terms and conditions, validity period and benefits of segmented offers and report the number of customers availing those offers and also declare whether subscribers have availed benefits under the tariff regime, adhering to non-discriminatory pricing rules.

“Airtel has gone with what Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) had ordered,” the person said.

Segmented offers by India’s older telcos was at the centre of an ugly spat between Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular on one side and Reliance Jio and Trai on the other.

A few months after launching services in September 2016, Jio complained to Trai against its three older rivals – Vodafone and Idea have now merged to form Vodafone Idea – saying incumbent operators were flouting rules by offering special offers – or segmented offers – to specific customers without divulging details of those individual offers to the regulator and to other customers.

Trai then barred telcos from offering such pricing packs to select individuals, which meant the incumbents couldn’t fight poaching attempts by the newcomer. India’s older telcos challenged the Trai order in the TDSAT, which quashed the broad directive last December but allowed Trai to seek basic details. Trai has since moved the Supreme Court against the TDSAT order.

In the notice sent to private telcos in the first week of April, Trai justified its latest demand saying it is within its rights to “to call for details of any segmented offer on which it may have received complaints” or to assess whether “such offers are truly non-discriminatory.”

But Airtel’s withhold full details as sought by Trai may start another tussle in a sector which has seen a slew of legal battles between Trai and the older players over several issues, including predatory pricing and interconnect usage charges, among others. Vodafone Idea is also expected to follow Airtel’s example.
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