Incumbents were also unhappy with segmented offers being disallowed.
The TDSAT said it was apparent that the Telecommunications Interconnection Usage Charges Regulation, 2003, had been altered significantly with respect to predatory pricing and reporting requirement, and this would have a significant impact on all concessions and discounts to any customer.
“The clauses in the impugned order related to the reporting requirement and definition of SMP are stayed.... (Trai) will be entitled to ask for details of segmented discounts/concessions for analysis, but no penalty shall be imposed on that basis until further orders in these pending appeals,” the TDSAT said.
Trai has linked predatory pricing with SMPs, limiting the incumbents’ flexibility in offering tariffs below Jio’s, whereas there was no such limiting factor for the entrant.
According to the Trai order, a tariff can be considered predatory if an SMP offers services at a price below the average variable cost in a “relevant market”, with a view to reducing or eliminating competition. A penalty to the tune of Rs 5 million per circle would be imposed on any operator offering predatory tariffs. Operators were also required to report all tariffs to Trai within seven days. Even individual discounts and segmented offers needed to be reported.
As a result, every concession or discount would be treated as a fresh tariff plan. Since telecom operators were permitted only 25 tariff plans per month in a service area, it was bound to invite penalty, said the tribunal.
“This is not only impractical, it also affects their retention and acquisition of customers,” it added.
Challenging the Trai’s regulations, Airtel had said in its petition that the orders were “illegal, arbitrary and void and infringes the rights of the telecom players”. The petition had also said the order was designed to further the “sinister intent of one player which wants to drive competition out”.
The telecom operators also lamented the regulations had been framed on issues never raised during the consultation process and which were not part of the consultation paper.
Also, they claimed, the regulations were against the interest of consumers, as it infringed upon the freedom of the service providers to offer benefits.