14 April 2015 14:16:07 IST

Flipkart pulls out of talks with Airtel on Zero platform

Says it is committed to larger cause of net neutrality

Flipkart has decided to pull out of an ongoing discussion with Airtel to join the Airtel Zero platform. The move follows criticism that the deal would violate the principles of net neutrality.

In a statement Flipkart said it strongly believed in the concept of net neutrality. "We exist because of the Internet. Over the past few days there has been a great amount of debate, both internally and externally, on the topic of zero rating, and we have a deeper understanding of the implications," the e-commerce company said.

"We will be walking away from the ongoing discussions with Airtel for their platform Airtel Zero," it added.

Flipkart said it will be committing to the larger cause of net neutrality in India. "We will be working towards ensuring that the spirit of net neutrality is upheld and applied equally to all companies in India irrespective of the size or the service being offered and there is absolutely no discrimination whatsoever," the company said. Bharti Airtel recently launched a new platform that will enable users to get access to applications and services with zero data charges. Called ‘Airtel Zero’, the platform will allow users to access chat apps, e-commerce sites, gaming portals, and other Internet-based services without having to pay for the data usage. Under the new model, Airtel will collect the data charges from the app service providers.

Backclash from SUpporters

“This is exciting for customers because a lot of their favourite apps can now be accessed without data charges, and a lot of new apps that small start-ups want to offer now become free,” said Srini Gopalan, Director, Consumer Business, at Bharti Airtel.

However, both Airtel and Flipkart had to face a severe backlash from supporters of net neutrality. They argued that the deal gives preferential treatment to certain companies with deep pockets and, therefore, kills start-ups and innovation.

Asked if this platform goes against the principles of net neutrality, Gopalan said everyone would be free to join the platform. “This is an open platform with non-discriminatory pricing, and we believe it will be a win-win for customers and e-commerce players,” he said.

Meanwhile, over 3 lakh people have written to the TRAI expressing support for net neutrality.