The telecom regulator will shortly examine whether operators are complying with its September 2021 directive that barred telcos and their channel partners from making any differential tariff offers to attract customers through the mobile number portability ( MNP ) route, a senior official said.
The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) will also check whether telcos are offering tariffs that have not been filed with the regulator, and which may be construed as discriminatory and in contravention of the rules around pricing, the official told ET, requesting not to be named.
Trai has sought bids from its battery of empanelled auditors involved in telco metering and billing by June 10, following which five auditors will be selected.
"The special audit will ascertain the status of compliance by telecom service providers of our September 2021 direction on prohibition of MNP-specific tariff offers, especially as the regulator had emphasised the need to ensure transparency, uniformity and protection to consumers," the official said.
He said the audit would also verify if only the tariffs reported by the operators to Trai are being offered through their channel partners, distributors, retailers and third-party apps. "The aim is to check telcos' compliance levels, prevent malpractices and any form of under-cutting," the official said.
In September 2021, Trai had directed telcos to offer only those tariffs that had been reported to the regulator, and to ensure that these are compliant with extant regulations/directions.
Its directive then was in response to numerous complaints lodged by all the three telcos–Bharti Airtel , Reliance Jio and Vodafone Idea–against each other for coming up with discriminatory MNP-specific offers to grab consumers.
Trai had then said that some telcos had claimed that discriminatory MNP-specific tariff benefits had been given to customers by channel partners without their consent.
But it had subsequently said that the operators needed to realise that since channel partners, distributors, retailers and third-party apps are not licensed entities, it remained the sole responsibility of telcos to adhere to the regulatory provisions.
Trai is of the view that MNP-specific tariff offers violate Clause 10 of the Telecom Tariff Order-1999, which states that any offering of differential tariff to subscribers porting from a network of another service provider is not a valid and reasonable classification, especially since the motive is to induce churn from the competitors' network, which is discriminatory.
MNP requires mobile users to first send a text message to their service provider. Once the MNP request is approved, a further process is initiated that can take 3-5 days for the subscriber to migrate to a rival telco, while retaining the same mobile number.
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