Reliance Jio has accused Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea, and Bharat Sanchar Nigam (BSNL) of fraudulently claiming interconnect usage charge (IUC) from it, for incoming calls on landline numbers.
It asked Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) to penalise the three entities and to direct them to refund the money, with interest.
In a letter to Trai, it alleged the three firms have allotted mobile numbers as customer care or helpline numbers to companies such as Oyo, Justdial, and Videocon D2H.
A breach, it says, of the IUC regulations Trai issued in 2003. These prescribe separate charges for calls terminating on wireless and wireline numbers — current per minute termination charges are 6p and nil, respectively.
Jio said in all these cases the mobile number acts as a virtual number for routing customer care and helpline-related calls. “Thus, even when the calling party is dialling the mobile numbers, all such calls are actually terminating on the fixed lines without ever touching the radio access network of the terminating operator,” went the Jio letter.
It said this situation changes the nature and character of a call from ‘mobile to wireline network’ to ‘mobile to mobile network’.
In the interconnect agreements signed between Jio and Airtel, Vodafone Idea and BSNL for calls on universal access and toll-free numbers, the originating operator receives 36-52p a minute from the terminating one.
“We suspect thousands of such numbers are operational in the market, deployed by them,” Jio said.
An Airtel spokesperson said this seems like an attempt by Jio to misguide Trai in the run-up to the consultation on IUC. “Enterprise customers referred to by Jio transfer their call to their unique number to a fixed line or another mobile number as this is permitted by the DoT. There is no loss to originating operator as the customer always dials a mobile and not a fixed-line number.”