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Delhi HC strikes down Vodafone’s petition on TRAI consultations: report

The Delhi HC has struck down a petition filed by Vodafone which challenged telecom regulator TRAI’s recent consultation on revising Interconnection Usage Charges (IUC), reports Business Standard. The company had filed the petition early this year challenging multiple consultation papers issued by TRAI which looked at changing the current IUC rates (here and here) or the cost of interconnection of calls between two different network operators.

The development also comes after Vittorio Colao, Vodafone Group CEO urged the DoT to not reduce IUC charges in an official letter. Colao said reducing interconnection charges will destabilize the telecom sector, defeat government rural coverage objectives and cause inconvenience to users. More on this here. Airtel, Idea and Vodafone (existing telcos), earlier demanded that the IUC charges be increased to 30-40 paise per minute while Reliance Jio wanted it fully scrapped.

Telecom companies and the regulator TRAI have been discussing the issue of IUC charges at a time when voice calls are being handed out in bulk for free all telcos including new operator Jio. When a subscriber initiates a voice call, his/her telco pays IUC charges in form of ‘termination charges’ to the other telco on whose network the call is received.  TRAI currently charges IUC on the basis of the type of network the call originates or terminates on:

Vodafone wants TRAI to reveal cost models of IUC charges

The Business Standard report also mentioned that Vodafone specifically asked TRAI to reveal the cost model used to determine or revise IUC rates. Vodafone argued in its petition that if TRAI fails to provide this information, then it would be a violation of the transparency provisions of the TRAI Act itself. The TRAI Act was set up in 1997 after the telecom sector in India was privatized.

The report added that Vodafone cited Supreme Court’s verdict last year which struck down TRAI’s mandatory Re 1 per dropped call as compensation for consumers. SC’s judgment said that TRAI’s compensation policy for consumers was “arbitrary, ultra vires, unreasonable and not transparent.” Note that the Delhi Court had earlier dismissed telco’s petitions and upheld TRAI’s compensation structure, after which telcos were forced to move the apex court.

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