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TRAI launches portal to compare telecom tariffs

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has made live its portal to compare tariffs of various telecom service providers, pushing for user convenience and transparency.

The website, www.tariff.trai.gov.in, has been launched in its beta version and shows tariffs only for the Delhi circle as of now.

The allows users to choose between different types of service that telcos provide: internet (2G, 3G, 4G), voice calling, messaging, among others, and compare rates. For easy access, various tariff plans and other tariff instruments are provided at TRAI website in downloadable format, TRAI said.

The authority has asked for user feedback through an option on its portal.

New rules on tariff transparency

This initiative is a part of TRAI’s move to control predatory pricing in the telecom sector. In February, it released new rules saying that if a service is provided at a price below the average variable cost with the intention to reduce competition or eliminate competitors, it will be termed predatory pricing and be barred. The authority held the view that telcos offer special discounted tariffs and packages to users in certain circles, which they do not display on their websites.

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Under these rules, TRAI had also mandated that telcos must notify it within seven days of any new tariffs or changes. In March, the authority sent a notice to Airtel for not complying with its tariff reporting requirements. It said that Airtel did not inform about certain segmented tariffs offered to consumers to retain them.

The new rules change the definition of predatory pricing which led to a verbal spat between the TRAI and industry body Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI). COAI flagged the revised definition of Significant Market Power (SMP) that now excludes parameters like traffic volume and switching capacity, and said such changes will place older operators at a disadvantage and stop them from responding to “what may be actual predatory tariff plans”. The industry body alleged that said changes favour one player, hinting at Reliance Jio.

The regulatory authority was barred by the Madras High Court from penalising Vodafone under these rules. While the matter is still sub-judice and final decision is awaited, the interim order effectively allows Vodafone and possibly other telcos to offer specific plans to certain subscribers in order to retain them, without similar offerings for other customers.

Previously, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular had also approached the TDSAT for a stay on the new tariff order. While the tribunal did not grant a stay on the rules, it gave TRAI three weeks to file its comments on why the new tariff order should not be stayed. The chairman of the Competition Commission of India (CCI) also held that current conditions of the telecom market do not warrant a regulatory intervention to curb predatory pricing of significant players.

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