TRAI Investigates Potential Abuse of Tariffs By Telecom Operators
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has initiated a thorough probe of all past and present telecom tariff plans offered by operators across India. This marks the first time ever that such an extensive probe is initiated.
Background: Predatory Pricing and Unfair Dealing by Telcos
TRAI’s main concerns involve predatory pricing practices by telecom companies and their provision of “unlimited” plans, both of which have resulted in customer discontentment and competition between telecom companies has led to closer attention being paid by regulators towards them.
What Prompted This Investigation?
Vodafone Idea initiated an investigation against Reliance Jio and Bharti Airtel following its complaint that both were offering unlimited data plans with their 5G services, and engaging in predatory pricing by providing 5G services at 4G rates. As part of its response, the regulator ordered Jio and Bharti to discontinue offering unlimited data plans in their 5G tariff plans; Vodafone Idea itself has also engaged in predatory pricing when providing 4G plans. In turn, Vodafone Idea also engaged in similar practices when offering 4G plans.
What Are the Specifics of This Investigation?
The regulator is now conducting an exhaustive audit on past and current tariff plans of telecom operators in India to ascertain whether any have breached regulatory guidelines. This involves closely scrutinising Vodafone Idea’s tariff plans to ascertain if it offered unlimited data plans in the past or currently – in order to create an all-inclusive order against predatory pricing or unlimited offers.
Impact of the Investigation
Investigation will likely have an impactful ripple-through effect for all telecom operators in the country, as any violations found will incur heavy fines and penalties that should provide customers with some relief in terms of lower rates and better services from operators practices that cannot engage in unfair practices as freely as before.