An apex telecom tribunal on Friday granted interim relief to Vodafone Idea, giving a green signal to the telco to continue signing up new customers for its premium plan called RedX. The telecom company had approached TDSAT after TRAI had put a hold on its plan that promises priority 4G network to premium customers.
On the other hand, the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) allowed the telecom regulator, TRAI to continue with its inquiry and pass a final order in accordance with the law at the earliest. It should be done after ensuring that requirements of natural justice are satisfied and that Vodafone Idea Ltd (VIL) is given an opportunity to explain any alleged contravention of the regulator’s directions.
Earlier this week, VIL moved TDSAT challenging the regulator’s direction asking it to withhold the RedX priority plan till the matter was under examination.
The latest development also comes as a relief to Bharti Airtel as well, which launched its Platinum plan, similar to Vodafone Idea’s RedX, last week.
TRAI on July 11 had said the terms and conditions of the RedX offer require a detailed review to ensure consistency with the existing regulatory framework and so a questionnaire has been prepared by the authority for the company to respond to within seven days.
On its part, Vodafone Idea had said there was a lack of any finding, even prima facie, that what has been offered in the RedX plan originally and thereafter the modified RedX plan of May 2020 contravened any particular direction governing tariff formulation.
TDSAT noted that the stand of the respondent (TRAI) and also Reliance Jio is that higher or any pre-determined speed for data transfer is technically not feasible to be assured in mobile telephony and till the inquiry is completed, it would not be proper to permit VIL to take advantage and acquire subscribers on the basis of advertisements of its scheme assuring higher speed.
Reliance Jio has also objected to the priority plan.
VIL counsel maintained that the reply of Trai itself shows that the company’s plan of November 2019 has already been modified in May 2020 and the complaint had come thereafter.
While earlier RedX plan claimed up to 50 per cent higher data speed as compared to other post-paid plans, as per the revised plan dated of May 2020 that claim had been modified to mention “priority 4G network on RedX Plan as compared to other Vodafone post-paid plans”.
Even the modified plan had worked for about two months, before it faced suspension in view of the interim order of Trai dated July 11, VIL had said. According to the tribunal, as to what would be the meaning of the assurance of priority 4G network will have to be considered by Trai.
“If the appellant has not filed its response to the questionnaire, it may do so by 22.07.2020. Such response, if filed within the extended period, shall be duly considered by the authority for the purpose of further inquiry,” TDSAT said.
It is still not clear whether the latest judgement is also applicable to the Bharti Airtel’s plan or not. The company announced its premium plan on July 6, which too was put on hold by Trai later along with RedX offering.
So far, Bharti Airtel has not approached the tribunal against the Trai order.