TRAI gives Vodafone Idea time till Sep 4 to reply to showcause notice on priority plan

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has granted additional time till September 4 to Vodafone Idea to respond to its showcause notice on priority plan, a source said.

TRAI, last week, had slapped a showcause notice on Vodafone Idea Ltd over its pay-more-for-priority-treatment mobile plan, saying the tariff offer "lacks transparency", is "misleading" and not in compliance with regulatory framework.

TRAI, which had been probing Vodafone Idea Ltd (VIL's) priority plan, had issued an elaborate 17-page notice to the telco on August 25 asking it to "show cause" by August 31 "as to why appropriate action should not be initiated against it for violating the extant regulatory framework by its RedX tariff plan...." A source privy to the development said VIL had approached the regulator asking for three weeks' additional time to reply to the showcause notice.

TRAI has now written back to the company, giving additional time till September 4 for replying to the showcause notice, the source said.

When contacted, Vodafone Idea declined to comment on the matter.

In the showcause notice to VIL, TRAI had said, "The RedX Tariff offer lacks transparency and is misleading and not in compliance with regulatory principles of tariff assessment contained under Telecom Tariff Order, 1999 as amended from time to time." The sector regulator had said it is of the view that the "claim of VIL for providing 'Priority 4G Network with faster data speeds' is not in compliance with the extant regulatory framework...." It had said the RedX tariff offer is in contravention of specific clauses of the Telecom Tariff Order relating to protection of interests of the consumers.

VIL's RedX tariff offer "violates the terms of license agreement" and is not consistent with stipulated technical specifications, TRAI had said, adding that it also did not comply with the service quality norms.

Over the past weeks, TRAI had been probing Vodafone Idea's priority plan RedX and Bharti Airtel Platinum Offering to see if network preference to specific customers leads to deterioration of services for other non-premium subscribers or violates any norms.

Bharti Airtel, however, was not issued the showcause notice for its platinum plan, which was also under the regulator's lens.

Airtel had offered to abide by TRAI's views and also voluntarily modified its platinum offering suitably, and hence TRAI is not proceeding with further investigation on it.

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