Telecom companies Airtel, Jio and Vi have urged the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) to not intervene in tweaking the validity of prepaid plans and to keep the matter under forbearance regime noting that TRAI's intervention could lead to disruption and could destabilise mobile tariff structures that could hurt consumers. TRAI, in the past, had noted that it received complaints from consumers who said they feel cheated because of 28-day validity plans as they have to get 13 recharges done per year, according to an online report.
Currently, the forbearance regime that TRAI follows keeps it from interfering in telcos decisions to design tariffs including validity plans. However, the regulator can report requirements and adherence to the principles of tariff assessments, as in transparency, non-discrimination and non-predation.
Jio, which introduced new prepaid plans earlier this week without any daily data limits has suggested TRAI to issue an advisory to telecom companies to offer at least one prepaid plan voucher (PV), special tariff voucher (STV) and combo voucher (CV) with 30-day validity to address consumer complaints around the 28-day packs.
ET Telecom quoted Jio, which in its submission to the regulator, noted that it has launched "additional prepaid tariffs with validity of 30/60/90 days, that would address concerns raised in consumer representations received by TRAI."
However, the telco was of the view that operators cannot afford to reduce annual recharge per unit (ARPU)s and that realigning the validity of current recharges would not make any business sense and force them to come up with new price points. It further noted that shuffling the validity would lead to disruption and would create confusion for consumers who are used to their preferred recharges. It further noted that this would lead them to align their telecom spends to new recharges.
Airtel, in its submission to the regulator, said "the extant policy of forbearance on setting validity of tariff should continue, as a selective ex-ante intervention on one particular non-price aspect of tariff framework, i.e. validity, would force service providers to adjust or rebalance other important price aspects of tariff".
Vodafone Idea said any change to the existing 28/56/84 days prepaid tariff validity structure would be a massive one that would "require gigantic efforts in terms of consumer awareness, configurations in billing systems, publications in own and third-party channels and retail channel education".
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