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SC judgement in hand, TRAI orders telcos to provide details of segmented tariffs

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India

After the Supreme Court ruled in an order that the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India is within its rights to ask telecom operators for details of “segmented” tariffs, the regulator on Friday formally issued a direction to that effect. The move practically impacts only Vi (formerly Vodafone Idea) and Airtel, both of whom opposed the push by the regulator to get more information on such tariffs, which are often used to retain subscribers who are at risk of leaving a provider. TRAI raised concerns that this practice could be discriminatory or predatory, and telcos have argued that disclosing such information would expose market data that might help competitors poach their customers by undercutting their retention pricing.

This issue has been dragging for years, starting with a mid-2017 order by the telecom regulator prohibiting such tariffs, much to telcos’ chagrin. The following year, the regulator ordered telcos to provide information on segmented tariffs. The telcos obtained favourable rulings from the Madras High Court and the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal. But the Supreme Court essentially overturned those rulings. TRAI was represented by Tushar Mehta, the Solicitor General of India.

It is unclear if the regulator will take punitive action against telcos for their segmented tariffs. The telecom industry has said that it hoped that the new TRAI chair, PD Vaghela, would create “a more stable regulatory environment,” something that presumably translates into going easy on telcos.

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