Trai vs Bharti Airtel, Idea Cellular: TDSAT stays predatory pricing order

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In a relief to old operators, telecom tribunal TDSAT today put an interim stay on reporting requirement of 'segmented offers' and the new definition for ascertaining 'significant market power' for predatory pricing by Trai.

The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) in its interim order today, however, placed a qualifier on the reporting requirements, saying the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) will be entitled to ask for details of segmented discounts or concessions "for analysis" but that "no penalty shall be imposed on that basis" till further orders are given in the ongoing appeals by Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular.

Segmented offers refer to plans that operators dish out to individual customers in an efforts to retain them or counter the promotion effort of rivals.

"...the clauses in the impuged order related to the reporting requirements and definition of SMP are stayed," TDSAT said.

Airtel and Idea Cellular had moved the TDSAT against the regulator TRAI's February 16, 2018 order on predatory pricing that tweaked the definition of significant market player (SMP). The regulator had also said that operators will have to provide services to all subscribers availing the same tariff plan in a non-discriminatory manner.

The old operators had flagged the revised definition of Significant Market Power (SMP) that now excludes parameters like traffic volume and switching capacity, and had argued that such changes placed them at a disadvantage.

In its order today, the TDSAT noted that "the appellants have expressed deep apprehension that if the reporting requires disclosure of names etc of their customers, or other sensitive commercial information, disclosure of the same may adversely impact their business interests and the rival service providers may gain if they have access to such information."

The TDSAT said that it would not be necessary for operators to disclose the details of their customers or any business-sensitive information, and that they can withhold such information provided they offer a written explanation for the same, to the TRAI.

"If the respondent (TRAI) feels that relevant and necessary information is being withheld without just and good reasons, the matter may be bought to the notice of the tribunal for appropriate directions," the order added.


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