Telcos spar amid farmer protests

Reliance Jio claims that Airtel and Vi were encouraging the public to show support for farmers by migrating from its service.

Reliance Jio has sought action against rivals Airtel and Vi, alleging that the two telcos were encouraging the public to migrate from Jio to show support for farmers by spreading ‘frivolous rumours’. Airtel has responded by asking the regulator to throw the complaint out “with the contempt that it deserves”.

Vi, too, in a statement, called these “baseless allegations…to malign our reputation. We strongly refute such irresponsible comments on us.”

In its letter dated December 10 to regulator TRAI, Jio had alleged that the two companies were either directly or indirectly involved in “supporting and furthering the insinuations and false and frivolous rumours of Reliance being an undue beneficiary of the farm bills”. The company added that this had resulted in it receiving “large number of port out” requests from customers citing “this as the sole reason for porting out of Jio without having any complaints or other issues related to Jio services”. Meanwhile, strongly refuting the “baseless charges” made by Reliance Jio, Airtel on Monday shot off a letter to the regulator, stating that, “despite being provoked by some competitors who we know will go to any length to make baseless allegations, adopt bullying tactics and use intimidatory behaviour, we have always conducted our business with character and transparency, something that we are deeply proud of and known for.”

In its letter, Reliance Jio said, unethical and anti-competitive mobile number portability campaign to capitalise on the ongoing farmer protests in the country.

“We submitted that Airtel and VIL [Vodafone Idea Limited] remain unabated in pursuing this vicious and divisive campaign through its employees, agents and retailers,” Jio had said in the letter

It went on to add that in order to reap meagre gains in port-in numbers, the two telcos are intentionally defaming Reliance Jio by depicting it as being against farmers and projecting themselves as farmer friendly, “while at the same time intentionally fanning the anti-government protests”.

“The authority being a statutory body responsible for the telecom sector, should take immediate and strict actions…[and] issue necessary instructions to stop such campaigns with immediate effect,” the telco said.

Airtel, in its reply to TRAI, refuted Jio’s allegations and said it had operated in the telecom industry for 25 years. “During this period, we have competed hard in the market place and striven to serve our customers with excellence. At the same time, we take great pride in treating our competitors and partners with respect.”

“The current complaint, therefore, deserves to be dismissed and thrown out with the contempt that it deserves. It is in poor taste and is scurrilous to say the least,” it added.

Vodafone India, in a statement, termed Jio’s charge as “baseless allegations…to malign our reputation. We strongly refute such irresponsible comments on us.”

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