On Friday, the Supreme Court has directed Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea to disclose information/details sought by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) regarding segmented offers.
The bench comprising of Chief Justice SA Bobde, Justices AS Bopanna and V Ramasubramanian while allowing an application filed by TRAI in a pending appeal against an order passed by Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal, said that “In the light of the above historical background, what is now sought by TRAI to ensure adherence to the regulatory principles of transparency, non-discrimination, and non-predation, cannot be said, at least prima facie to be either illegal or wholly unjustified”.
“Hence the I.A. (intervention application) is allowed and a direction is issued to the respondents to disclose information/details sought by the appellant regarding segmented offers,” said the top court while adding that it is the duty and responsibility of the TRAI to ensure that such information is kept confidential and is not made available to the competitors or any other person.
In the exercise of powers conferred by Section 11(1)(b)(i), read with Section 11(2) of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India Act, the TRAI issued the Telecommunication Tariff (63rd Amendment) Order, 2018 dated February 16, 2018. Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea challenged it before the TDSAT.
Primarily, the challenge was to the ‘Reporting Requirements’ and ‘Significant Market Power’ (SMP) along with the insistence of TRAI about the disclosure of segmented discounts.
The TDSAT set aside the Telecom Tariff 63rd Amendment Order in so far as it changes the concepts of SMP, non-predation, and the related provisions.
Subsequently, the TRAI filed civil appeals against this order and also filed an intervention application seeking interim direction to the service providers to disclose information sought by it regarding the segmented offers.
In the number of segmented offers provided by telecom service providers (TSPs) during a period of 12 calendar months from January 2019 to December 2019 in various states, the TRAI contended that the details of these offers are not even disclosed to it.
“Therefore, despite being a regulator, TRAI is not in a position to analyze whether the plans are transparent and non-discriminatory and whether predatory pricing is resorted to by TSPs in the garb of segmented offers or not,” it contended.
The TSPs argued that segmented offers, as found by the TDSAT, constitute “confidentially designed trade practices”. Therefore, the TDSAT held that there is no need for reporting.
“Eventually, the impugned order namely the 63rd amendment order February 16, 2018, was issued. The amended definition of Reporting Requirement makes it clear that the Reporting Requirement is for the information and record of the TRAI,” said the top court.