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TDSAT leaves order in Vodafone Idea premium plan case unchanged

The telecom disputes tribunal on Tuesday did not modify its order observing that the probe in Vodafone Idea’s RedX premium plan was prompted by a complaint by Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd.

Trai had sought changes to the Telecom Disputes Settlement Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) order passed on 16 July, which said it was clear that the regulator’s probe into the validity of the premium plan for high-paying postpaid customers began due to Jio’s 8 July complaint.

Trai said it was “aggrieved” by this part of the interim order, urging for changes that it said represent proper facts and circumstances of the case.

However, on Tuesday, TDSAT said the observation that Trai’s inquiry started based on Reliance Jio’s complaint was a “prima facie finding” and will not impact the ongoing inquiry into the matter, which allays Trai’s concern, said two people aware of the proceedings, on condition of anonymity.

“Though Trai wanted this specific observation in the order to be changed, the court did not do so, and has instead given a balanced judgement on the issue,” said one of the persons quoted above. “It would be incorrect to say that Trai’s plea has been dismissed or rejected,” the person added.

Trai was also concerned over the tribunal’s observations leading to “prejudice” in the probe in the premium plan of Vodafone Idea that seem to offer better services to some customers over others.

TDSAT clarified that its observation will not “prejudice any party” in the case.

According to the order of 16 July, Vodafone alleged that Trai has “imputed bias” and said the regulator barred the telco from signing up new customers on its ‘priority 4G network’ scheme “only to help the cause of Reliance Jio”.

Trai said Vodafone has made “vague allegations” that its evaluation of the plan is based on a complaint from a rival. “It is incorrect to say that the examination is on the basis of a complaint from Jio,” Trai said.

However, in an application dated 13 July, Mukesh Ambani’s Reliance Jio said it understands that the order passed by Trai followed a complaint filed by the telco on 8 July. Jio has called the RedX plan discriminatory and misleading.

Jio was allowed to be a party in the case and has been asked to file a reply within two weeks. Jio has yet not filed a reply, said one of the persons quoted above.

The case also affects a similar plan, Platinum offered by Bharti Airtel Ltd, which was withheld, along with Vodafone’s RedX, following an 11 July directive by Trai. Airtel will have to separately take up the matter in the court to get interim relief like Vodafone.

Trai has raised concerns over violations of service norms, where the premium plans may be providing faster data and priority services to some customers over others.
Live Mint

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