Supreme Court orders telcos to disclose details of special rates to TRAI
In a significant direction, the Supreme Court on Friday ordered telecommunications companies to disclose to regulator TRAI the details of special rates and offers to consumers. Allowing a provisional application from the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI), a bank of Chief Justice SA Bobde and Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian said to seek compliance with regulatory principles such as “transparency” and “non-discrimination “on the part of telecommunications companies it was not” illegal or unjustified. “In light of the … historical antecedents, what TRAI now seeks to ensure compliance with the regulatory principles of transparency, non-discrimination and non-predation, cannot be said, at least prima facie, that it is illegal or totally unjustified.
“Therefore, AI is allowed and an instruction is issued to respondents (Bharti Airtel Ltd and others) to disclose information/details requested by the applicant/appellant (TRAI) regarding segmented offerings, ”the order said. It was the duty and responsibility of TRAI to ensure that “such information is kept confidential and not available to competitors or anyone else,” the higher court said.
TRAI had forced telecom operators to disclose information about all those plans. Airtel and Vodafone However, it had objected to the decision and had requested redress from Telecom’s Court of Appeal and Dispute Resolution (TDSAT) on the grounds that these offers were not rated plans and therefore did not need disclosures. Trust Jio Infocomm Ltd and the state mobile operators have complied with the TRAI order.
TDSAT ruled against the regulator’s order saying TRAI had no authority to request such general information from mobile service operators. The highest court, in its order, pointed out that TRAI’s jurisdiction and power to issue the Telecommunications Rate Order of February 16, 2018, was not “seriously disputed.” “Although the jurisdiction and power of TRAI appear to have been questioned in one of the appeals to TRAI, the TDSAT has not recorded any categorical finding that TRAI did not have jurisdiction and power to demand details of segmented offers.
“All that TDSAT found … of the contested order is that the segmented offers and discounts offered in the normal course of business to existing customers without any discrimination within the target segment do not amount to a rate plan and that, therefore, there is no need to report, ”said the higher court. Segmented offers are promotions and discounts that are made to customers who show an inclination to switch to other telecommunications companies.
To retain consumers, companies often offer better data speeds, preferred customer status, access to over-the-top (OTT) streaming platforms, and more. Previously, the Delhi High Court had refused to interfere with the telecommunications court’s provisional order TDSAT suspending regulator TRAI’s rule that required reporting on personalized discounts and concessions offered to subscribers selected by older service providers Airtel, Idea and Vodafone. He had refused to stay the decision and had said that he will ask the court to expedite the hearing of the reasons presented by Bharti Airtel and Cellular Idea against TRAI rule.