The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) has barred mobile phone service providers from offering different plans to subscribers in the same category.
''The authority directs all the Access Service Providers to ensure that all the tariffs offered to the consumers shall not be discriminatory between the subscribers of the same class, and to ensure that every tariff that is offered to a customer is invariably reported to the authority as per the reporting framework under the forbearance regime,'' Trai said in a two-page order on Thursday.
The rules require telcos to report all plans to Trai within seven working days of introducing them.
Thursday's order means that the telcos, although free to offer any plan to any customer on clearance from Trai, would not be able to customise packs for an individual subscriber. When an order is filed for clearance with the regulator, it becomes available to all. The order takes away the advantage of customised plans for a subscriber, or the confidentiality of such offers.
Moreover, incumbents have hundreds of existing plans, and the approval of additional plans could lead to breaching the limit of 25 plans a month that a carrier can file with Trai, The Economic Times observes. Reliance Jio, which started commercial services on 5 September last year, has a limited number of plans on offer.
Trai on Thursday said it had received complaints that some service providers were introducing tariffs without filing them with the regulator, and that they were offering ''discriminatory tariff to individual customers within the same class''.
The directions issued in the form of a tariff order came after complaints to Trai from Reliance Jio that Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea were offering special tariff vouchers (STV), packs and discounts to influence users wanting to shift out of their networks to Jio. The Reliance-owned Jio and the three incumbent service providers are engaged in a price war to attract and retain users.
Bharti Airtel, Vodafone India and Idea had previously denied all allegations, claiming they were in full compliance of regulatory guidelines, including tariff orders and MNP (mobile number portability) regulations. The companies didn't comment on the regulator's order on Thursday.