Madras HC stays TRAI order of penal action against Vodafone

Team SoOLEGAL 19 Mar 2018 11:05am

Madras HC stays TRAI order of penal action against Vodafone

 New Delhi :In an interim order delivered by Madras High Court it has stayed Telecom Regulatory Authority of India's Februrary 16 directive to Vodafone to put all put all tariff plans on its website, including those offered to retain individual customers.It has also ordered the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) not to take any coercive or penal action against Vodafone India, while staying the regulator’s demand .It effectively allows Vodafone, India's second largest telecom company  to give segmented offers to specific subscribers whom it wants to retain, without offering that plan to other users, till the case is settled.

Vodafone India had challenged Trai’s tariff order . which changed the method for identifying what was a predatory offer and altered the definition of significant market power (SMP), giving pricing flexibility only to operators with less than 30% of the market’s subscribers or revenue, while scrapping volume of traffic and network capacity as criterion. The order also barred customised offers to specific subscribers and mandated them to make public all plans.

The bench  comprising Chief Justice Indira Banerjee and Justice Abdul Quddhose said, “There will be an order of injunction restraining the respondent authorities (Trai) from taking any coercive and/or penal measures against the petitioner (Vodafone) for non-compliance of paragraph 4(d) of the impugned communication being F.No.301-7(27)/2017-F&EA, dated March 7, 2018. All questions, including that of territorial jurisdiction of this court to entertain the writ petition, are kept open.”

The next date of hearing in the  matter is April 13. Trai has been allowed time till March 28 to file counter-affidavits and till April 6 it can file rejoinders.

The high court order can help Vodafone stave off competition from Jio. Legal sources tell that Vodafone has also filed a caveat in the Supreme Court on Saturday, asking to be heard before any interim order, in case Trai appealed in the apex court.

Bharti Airtel and Idea, who have announced their merger, have also separately challenged the tariff order in the telecom tribunal, saying it curtailed their rights to fight for customers, and thus violated their right to conduct business. While the Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT), in its hearing on March 5, didn’t grant them any immediate interim relief to Airtel and Idea, legal experts say the latest order of the Madras High Court could help the two carriers in their battle in this specific matter. TDSAT will next hear the matter on April 17.

Legal experts say that the order could specifically benefit Bharti Airtel, which has also been issued a separate show cause notice by Trai on March 16, asking it to share details by March 25 on its non-transparent and discriminatory tariffs. Bharti Airtel and Idea did not respond to queries as of press time.

Tagged: Madras High Court   TRAI   TDSAT   Vodafone   Bharti Airtel   Jio  
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