NEW DELHI: Bharti Airtel has moved the telecom tribunal against Reliance Jio Infocomm, asking it to restrain the Mukesh Ambani-owned company from providing free services, including those offered under its ‘Summer Surprise’ offer that was withdrawn on order from the sector regulator.
Lawyers of Jio objected to Airtel’s application, saying it was meant to confuse issues.
Airtel, through an application filed on Thursday, objected to alleged delays from Jio’s end to implement regulator Trai’s order to stop Summer Surprise offer, which provided free voice and data for three months for a charge of Rs.303.
India’s top telecom service provider also objected continuation of the benefits under that offer to consumers who had subscribed to the offer before it was withdrawn. Senior Lawyer Gopal Jain representing Bharti Airtel asked Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) to “restrain Reliance Jio forthwith from providing or from continuing to provide free services and/or services under the Summer Surprise Offer to any of its customers, including but not limited to, such customers who have already subscribed to the Summer Surprise Offer” a person present in the tribunal said.
Ramji Srinivasan, counsel representing Reliance Jio, claimed that Airtel’s plea was not “maintainable since it is raising an entirely new/different point, and is only filed to confuse the issues.”
Srinivasan and Trai’s lawyer Kirtiman Singh said the Summer Surprise offer was withdrawn by April 11. TDSAT directed Jio and Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to file their respective replies to the tribunal by April 18. The next hearing is scheduled for April 20.
The tribunal will club this application along with another petition where Airtel and Idea Cellular have challenged a Trai order that allowed Jio to offer free services beyond 90 days, the stipulated period for promotional offers.
Bharti Airtel and Reliance Jio did not comment on the latest developments. Tariff wars between incumbents and the new entrant have become a contentious issue and escalated manifold in the past few months.
While Jio has been coming up with new ways to give free data to lure customers, Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea Cellular have been upping the ante by giving additional data benefits to retain customers.
Both sides have also taken legal and regulatory recourses to curtail one another. On Wednesday, Jio had asked Trai to take “strongest action” and levy “highest penalty” on the trio for violating licence rules, telecom tariff orders and mobile number portability (MNP) guidelines.