Telcos passing off wirelines as mobile numbers to evade charges

New Delhi: Reliance Jio has alleged incumbents, including state-run BSNL, Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea, have fraudulently masquerading wireline numbers as mobile numbers for receiving terminating charges as mobile numbers and not paying relevant charges in willful and blatant violation of existing laws.

The Mukesh Ambani company hit at the rivals, saying this implementation of masquerading the wireline number as mobile numbers is a case of deliberate and fraudulent attempt made by incumbents to illegally extract mobile termination charge of 6 paise/minute from originating operator, whereas in reality the call is getting terminated on a wireline network.

Jio recently started charging 6 paise a minute for calls to other networks.

In a letter to the Trai chairman R.S. Sharma, Jio said: “1. Your attention is invited to fraudulently masquerading wireline numbers as mobile numbers by Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Idea Limited and BSNL for undue enrichment by receiving terminating charge as mobile number and not paying IN charges in willful and blatant violation of the IUC Regulations, National Numbering Plan 2003 and subsequent Department of Telecommunications (DoT) letters on toll-free numbers and Intelligent Network Services in Multi-Operator and Multi-Network Scenario Regulations by offering mobile numbers to various enterprises as their customer care or helpline numbers”.

“Since these fraudulent activities of masquerading wire-line numbers by mobile numbers is causing huge loss to some operators as well as to the exchequer and undue enrichment of incumbent operators apart from being not in public and telecom sector interest, Authority is humbly requested to direct the Incumbent Operators to stop this fraudulent cheating practice with immediate effect.”

Jio has also asked for penalties to be put on those operators practicing the activities.

“Levy severest penalties on incumbent operators for gross violations of various regulations so as to act as a deterrent and recommend Licensor to levy the highest penalty for violations of license conditions,” it said in the letter.

The pure-play 4G operator sought action by Trai to direct incumbent operators to refund the applicable mobile termination charge amount to RJIL and other operators with compound interest.

Jio asked Trai to direct incumbent operators to pay a minimum of Rs 0.36 per minute for all such calls originated from the RJIL network.

It alleged the incumbent operators have implemented a process, under which various enterprises are offered mobile numbers as their customer care/helpline numbers. Some of the popular examples are like 8888888888 by Just Dial, 9313931393 by Oyo, 9115691156 by Videocon D2H. In all these cases, the mobile number is used just as a virtual number for routing all such calls to respective call center set-ups of these organizations operating on wire-line PRIs with hunting facilities. Thus, even when the calling party is dialing the mobile number, all such calls are actually terminating on the fixed lines without ever touching the mobile network of the terminating operator.

Thus, the underlying wireline numbers are being deliberately and fraudulently masqueraded with the published mobile numbers by the Incumbent Operators. This changes the nature and character of a call from ‘mobile to wireline network’ to ‘mobile to mobile network’, Jio complained.

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