On December 4, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) had directed all telcos to submit details of all segmented offers made between January and November 2020, including offer name, tariff rates, terms and conditions, validity spans and benefits within 15 days. It had said that such disclosures would need to be made on a monthly basis for each service area. Trai had then added that mandatory disclosures of segmented offers from December 2020 onwards would need to be made to the regulator within 10 working days from the last day of the month.
A senior Trai official said “both Airtel and Vi have filed their respective segmented offers details, which are currently under examination”.
An Airtel spokesperson said the Sunil Mittal-led telco has “submitted the required details (with regards to segmented tariffs) to Trai in compliance with the guidelines”. A Vi spokeswoman, in turn, said “all our (segmented) offerings have been duly reported to Trai, and we remain fully compliant to regulatory requirements”.
Trai’s December 4 directive had come after the Supreme Court had in November upheld the regulator’s appeal against an almost two-year-old telecom tribunal order that had set aside a regulation requiring telcos to report all tariffs in the interests of transparency and non-discrimination.
The nation’s top court, in fact, had on November 6 ordered Airtel and Vi to disclose to the Trai all segmented or “specific offers” made to their subscribers, delivering a jolt to the two companies who had all along maintained that submission of such details could end up flouting commercial confidentiality and help rivals poach their customers.
During earlier proceedings in the apex court, Airtel and Vi had said that mandatory disclosure of segmented offer details could end up flouting commercial confidentiality and help rivals poach their customers. They had also said it would be unworkable for them to disclose details of innumerable segmented offers.
The Supreme Court, in its latest order, though had addressed that concern and directed Trai to keep the details of all telco segmented offers confidential and ensure they are not disclosed to any competitors or any other person.
Back in December 2018, the Telecom Disputes Settlement & Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) had set aside a rule in Trai’s predatory pricing regulation that required telcos to report all segmented offers. The tribunal’s verdict had then meant that Airtel and Vi could continue offering customised discounts to retain subscribers and wouldn’t be bound to report these offers to Trai.
The TDSAT, in its order, had said that segmented offers and discounts offered to existing customers without discrimination within a targeted segment didn’t amount to a tariff plan and need not be reported in the manner prescribed for regular tariff plans. Trai had, subsequently, challenged the tribunal’s order in Supreme Court.