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    TRAI defends action against Vodafone Idea's premium plans, says action not based on Jio complaint

    TRAI defends action against Vodafone Idea's premium plans, says action not based on Jio complaint

    TRAI defends action against Vodafone Idea's premium plans, says action not based on Jio complaint
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    By Ashmit Kumar   IST (Updated)

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    The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Thursday “vehemently denied” the allegation from Vodafone Idea that the order against the premium plans of Vodafone-Idea and Bharti Airtel was on account of a complaint filed by Reliance Jio.

    The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) on Thursday “vehemently denied” the allegation from Vodafone Idea that the order against the premium plans of Vodafone-Idea and Bharti Airtel was on account of a complaint filed by Reliance Jio.
    TRAI argued before the TDSAT that it had launched investigations into the premium offering by two companies prior to the complaint received from Reliance Jio.
    TRAI filed its response today on the plea filed by Vodafone Idea in TDSAT challenging the TRAI’s direction to discontinue premium plans, pending a regulatory probe. TRAI defended its actions as a “prudent and proportionate” exercise of statutory power.
    Vodafone-Idea had launched RedX plan in November of 2019, assuring 50 percent higher speeds. Similarly, Bharti Airtel had, in July, introduced platinum plans that claimed that subscriber of these plans would be given preferential treatment on their network. Bharti Airtel is yet to move the TDSAT to challenge the TRAI order.
    TDSAT argued in TDSAT that premium plans will have a substantial impact on data services and may even, potentially, impact millions adversely. TRAI argued that prima facie it appears that a “priority access” plan implies reduction in quality of service to other subscribers.
    TRAI also argued that “priority” access claimed by the operators was not measurable and verifiable by the consumers, who are likely to be misled. TRAI submitted that it needed to investigate whether these plans and the claims made by telecom operators were mere “marketing gimmicks”.
    TRAI also recounted, in its reply, that historically the likes of Vodafone and Bharti Airtel have held the position that it is not possible to provide minimum data speeds.
    TRAI reply cited replies of the telecom service operators to various discussions with the regulator on Quality of Service Regulations. In this context, TRAI argued that these companies are now assuring “higher speeds” under the premium plans, was contrary to their own position.
    TRAI has also clarified that the order does not bar or restrain Vodafone Idea from extending services to existing customers of the premium plans. TRAI argued that the directions only restrain Vodafone Idea from enrolling new customers under the premium plans.
    TRAI defended the order, saying it was compelled to restrain Vodafone Idea as it continued to enrol new customers despite ongoing investigations by the regulator.
    TRAI also alleged that Vodafone has actively tried to mask critical information with respect to speeds on offer under the premium plans. TRAI also submitted that despite the plan being in effect since November 2019, it has the power to investigate and restrict telecom companies, at any given time.
    The TDSAT, after today’s hearing, has reserved its judgment on Vodafone’s plea seeking a stay on the TRAI order. The order is likely to be pronounced by July 17. The TRAI will also rule on whether or not to allow Jio to intervene in this case.
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