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Telecom tribunal refuses to stay Jio free offer, asks Trai to re-examine freebies

LiveMint logoLiveMint 16-03-2017 PTI

New Delhi: The telecom tribunal on Thursday did not stay Reliance Jio’s free promotional offer, but asked the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to “re-examine” issues relating to the approval granted to the operator to continue with the freebies.

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), in its order on Thursday, asked Trai to apprise it of the “outcome and findings of the examination” within two weeks.

TDSAT last week had reserved the order on an interim appeal seeking a stay on Reliance Jio’s free offer after hearing all the parties concerned, including Trai, incumbent operators Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular, and newcomer Jio.

In its interim appeal, Airtel had sought a stay on Trai’s approval to Jio to continue with the free services. It had also sought a direction to the regulator to produce all the records related to its decision.

The appeal also sought to restrain Jio from providing its consumers the zero tariff plan and promotional plans. Jio had launched the inaugural free voice and data plan in September last year, and in December, extended the freebies till 31 March 2017.

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Following this, the existing players such as Airtel and Idea moved the telecom tribunal against Trai for letting the new operator continue the free promotional offer beyond the stipulated 90 days. The operators criticised the regulator for being a “mute spectator” to the alleged violations.

On 31 January, Trai had held that Jio’s free voice calling and data plan were not violation of the regulatory guidelines.

Trai had further said its examination had revealed that the ‘Happy New Year Offer’ launched by Jio on 4 December 2016, is distinct from its earlier Jio Welcome Offer and could not be treated as an extension of the promotional offer as the benefits under both differed.

Recently, Jio announced that it will start charging for its mobile services from 1 April.

Last month, Jio said its existing subscribers and new customers who come on board by March 31 can continue to enjoy unlimited benefits of its Happy New Year Offer for one more year (till March 31, 2018) by paying a one-time fee of Rs 99 and thereafter Rs 303 a month.

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