In a letter sent to TRAI on December 10, 2020, Reliance Jio has asked the regulator to take strict action against Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea (Vi) for allegedly involving in unethical practices and false propaganda to lure customers away. Both Airtel and Vi have denied the allegations.
Reliance Jio is the largest telecom player in terms of subscriber market share and revenue market share. According to a report, in September 2020, the subscriber market share for Jio stood at 35.2% along with a revenue market share of 38.2%. Reliance Jio had started its operations by offering free data. Even though it stopped offering free data later, its paid plans were considerably cheaper than the rivals. This has led to an increase in Reliance Jio subscriber base.
But the latest farmer protests have become an issue for Reliance. Some of the farmer groups are blaming the government for pandering to big corporates like Reliance and Adani groups. In several cases, the farmers have boycotted products belonging to both the corporate giants. It is alleged that several Reliance Jio subscribers are ditching the network and porting their numbers to rival networks. It is in this context that the complaint from Reliance Jio assumes significance.
Reliance Jio’s complaint:
- Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea are trying to capitalise on the farmers’ protests.
- Both the rival networks have created advertisements for mobile number portability (MNP) that capitalised on these protests in the northern parts of the country.
- False rumours of Reliance being a beneficiary of the new farm laws are being spread directly/indirectly by employees, agents and retailers of both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea.
- Many customers are opting out of Reliance Jio stating that they are supporting farmers.
- TRAI should act against both Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea for running misleading ad campaigns.
Airtel and Vi’s reply:
- Airtel stated that although they competed hard in the market, they treated their competitors and partners with respect.
- The statement further noted that Airtel has always conducted its business with character and transparency.
- Airtel urged TRAI to dismiss the complaint of Reliance Jio ‘with the contempt that it deserves’.
- Vodafone Idea (Vi) stated that they conducted their business with ethics.
- The company refuted the allegations of Reliance Jio by saying that the current complaint was an attempt to malign the reputation of Vi.
Who has a winning digital strategy in the market – Reliance Jio or Bharti Airtel? Inc42 has carried an insightful article on the issue, which can be read here.