Jio accuses Airtel and Vi of using Indian farmers’ protests to snipe their subscribers
Back in September, the Indian government introduced new bills related to farming regulation, loosening the rules surrounding the sale, pricing, and storage of produce. While many have welcomed these reforms, many of the farmers themselves fear that this will allow them to be exploited by the free market, seeing the end of the current wholesale market and the assured prices they rely on. This move has led to major protests throughout India, but primarily in the countries north.
But how does this relate to the country’s telecoms market? Well, one of the perceived beneficiaries of this new policy will be mega-player Reliance Industries, which is expected to effectively set the market price and slowly reduce the producers options for selling elsewhere due to its scale and market influence. As a result, farmers are calling for a boycott of Reliance products – and that includes Reliance Jio’s mobile plans.
Now, Jio is accusing its rivals, Bharti Airtel and Vi (formerly Vodafone Idea) of stoking the fires of the farmers’ protests and spreading false information about Jio in an attempt to steal their customers.
"These companies continue to remain directly and indirectly involved in supporting and furthering the ensued notions, and false frivolous rumours of Reliance being an undue beneficiary of the farm bills for unethical pecuniary benefits in the form of induced porting of RJIL customers," said Jio in a letter to the national telecoms regulator.
Naturally, Airel says that the accusation is baseless, while Vi has reportedly yet to comment.
"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," said Airtel’s chief regulatory officer Rahul Vatts.
It will be down to the regulator to find the truth of these accusations. Jio has put the squeeze on Airtel and Vi in recent years, with the companies not only being priced out by Jio itself but struggling under enormous government adjusted gross revenue dues; both surely welcome some bad press for Jio, though whether they would stoop to spreading malicious rumours is a different question.
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