TRAI Orders Non-Discrimination in MNP Offers, Asks Telcos to Not Introduce Differential Tariffs

Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has issued a new order asking telecom operators to stop offering differential tariffs via mobile number portability (MNP) offers. This is apparently done to “induce churn from the competitors’ network” and TRAI says that it has received complaints from many telecom service providers (TSPs) against each other. Telcos allege that these MNP offers have apparently been introduced by third-party channel partners to lure users to switch their mobile network, without the consent and authorisation of the TSP itself.

TRAI’s new order has been published on the website and it essentially says that telecom operators cannot introduce any offers that have not been reported to the regulator. This order looks to increase transparency, stop unfair practices, and maintain non-discrimination in tariff orders. It asserts that only the tariffs reported to TRAI can be offered through telecom operators’ channel partners, distributors, retailers, third-party apps, and others. All tariff offers must comply with TRAI’s regulations and it is the responsibility of the TSP to comply with these directions.

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As mentioned, TRAI said it has issued this order after receiving several complaints from different telecom operators’ regarding these unethical MNP offers to lure customers to switch networks. While the TSPs deny these allegations, in some cases, it has been stated by a few telcos that their channel partners may have given some MNP-specific benefits to the customers on their own accord, without the consent or authorisation of the TSP.

To this, TRAI reasons that channel partners, distributors, retailers, and third-party apps are non-licensed entities appointed by telcos for the purpose of offering telecom services, and it remains the responsibility of the telecom operator to adhere to the directions of TRAI — with respect to non-discrimination of tariffs — and communicate it well to its partners.

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“The offering of differential tariff to the subscriber porting from the network of other service provider is not valid and reasonable classification as the motive behind such classification is apparently to induce churn from the competitors network and which is discriminatory and contravenes the provisions of clause 10 of TTO, 1999,” TRAI says in its order.

Vodafone Idea has been losing a lot of subscribers in the recent months with Jio and Airtel making significant subscriber gains.

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