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Jio said it has received large number of porting requests with customers citing farmers’ protests as the only reason
Jio said it has received large number of porting requests with customers citing farmers’ protests as the only reason

Jio claims Airtel, Vi using farm protest to port out its customers

  • Jio said Airtel and Vi have been inciting its subscribers to migrate to their networks which in turn would be an act to support the farmers’ protest
  • Jio has urged Trai to take immediate action against the false and misleading ad campaigns run by Airtel and Vi

Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd has written a letter to the telecom regulator, alleging that rivals Bharti Airtel Ltd and Vodafone Idea Ltd (Vi) are carrying out unethical and anti-competitive mobile number porting to capitalise on the ongoing farmers’ protest. To counter Jio, Airtel and Vi have called the allegations “baseless", urging the regulator to dismiss them.

The Mukesh Ambani-led telco, Jio, alleged that Airtel and Vi continue to use advertisement campaigns through their employees, agents and retailers to mislead people across Punjab and other north-Indian states. Jio said Airtel and Vi have been inciting its subscribers to migrate to their networks which in turn would be an act to support the farmers’ protest.

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“These companies (Airtel and Vi) continue to remain directly/indirectly involved in supporting and furthering the insinuations and false and frivolous rumours of Reliance being an undue beneficiary of the farm bills for unethical pecuniary benefits in the form of induced porting of RJIL (Jio) customers," Jio said in the letter to the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India. Mint has viewed a copy of the letter.

For three weeks now, farmers have been protesting against three new farm laws passed by the Parliament in September that enabled farmers to sell their produce to any buyer they chose, rather than to middlemen or commission agents at state-controlled markets.

These markets were set up in the 1950s to stop the exploitation of farmers and pay a minimum support price (MSP) for certain produce. Many farmers see the MSP as a vital safety net, and fear being unable to compete with large farms and being paid low prices by big corporations—Ambani’s Reliance Retail Ventures Ltd being one of them.

Though the Centre and Prime Minister Narendra Modi have repeatedly assured procuring crops at MSP under the new farm laws, farmers continue their protests over their concerns. Jio, being another Reliance Industries Ltd (RIL) subsidiary, has been facing the heat of the protests.

As a result, Jio said, it has received large number of porting requests with customers citing farmers’ protests as the only reason. Jio has urged Trai to take immediate action against the false and misleading ad campaigns run by Airtel and Vi.

In another letter, Sunil Mittal-led Airtel refuted Jio’s allegations, saying that the complaint by the latter needs to be “thrown out with the contempt that it deserves. It is in poor taste and is scurrilous to say the least," Airtel said.

“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," Airtel said in the letter, which has been viewed by Mint.

An official statement by Vodafone Idea said Jio’s irresponsible allegations will malign the telco’s reputation, supporting Airtel’s comments against the complaint made to Trai.

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