Almost exactly a year after Reliance opened up Jio to the masses for commercial usage, they unveiled the JioPhone at the 2017 RIL AGM. The JioPhone was launched with much fanfare and was given the title of “India ka smartphone”. Upon launch, the JioPhone had just one condition which was that buyers would have to make a onetime (refundable) deposit of Rs 1500 which they can collect back after three years thereby making the JioPhone “effectively” free.
I’m pretty sure that a lot of us have, at various times, heard of the saying “Too good to be true”. It turns out the same applies to the JioPhone as well to some extent. After a dashing launch, Jio has quietly updated its website with a laundry list of Terms & Conditions pertaining to the JioPhone. I will elaborate those terms and conditions in this article.
What’s the minimum I should recharge to keep the JioPhone active?
Jio wants to make sure that you don’t let your JioPhone remain idle in the corner of some drawer. Well, technically, the folks at Jio don’t care how actively you use your JioPhone, but they want to make sure that you recharge it actively nonetheless.
To that extent, Jio has a clause whereby anyone purchasing a JioPhone has to make enough recharges in a year such that the sum of those recharges amounts to Rs 1500 (or more). That means, you could make a Rs 153 recharge ten times a year or you could make a Rs 309 recharge five times a year. Of course, other combinations amounting to a sum of over Rs 1500 a year is what is required.
In summary, the choice and combination of recharges are at the end user’s discretion. However, the sum of these recharges needs to be equal to or greater than Rs 1500 per year.
What happens if I don’t recharge on JioPhone for more than Rs 1500 a year?
Going by Jio’s website, if someone doesn’t recharge their JioPhone with a minimum of an aggregate of Rs 1500 or more every year, then Jio holds the right to take back the phone from the owner.
In such a scenario, where Jio takes back the phone from the owner because he/she didn’t do a minimum aggregate recharge of Rs 1500 per year, then the following amount would be returned to the owner. The amount returned would be a small part of the initial security deposit of Rs 1500 depending on the year at which the JioPhone is being forfeited:
- No money will be returned if the JioPhone isn’t recharged with a minimum aggregate of Rs 1500 in the first year itself.
- Up to Rs 500 will be returned if the JioPhone isn’t recharged with a minimum aggregate of Rs 1500 in the second year of possession.
- Up to Rs 1000 will be returned if the JioPhone isn’t recharged with a minimum aggregate of Rs 1500 in the third year of possession.
Notice the word ‘Up to’ in every point above? That’s because Reliance Jio will be cutting the applicable GST (18%) while refunding the amount.
Can I return my JioPhone before three years of purchasing it?
Yes, it is indeed possible to return the JioPhone before the completion of the 3 year contract period. In such a scenario, a small portion of the initial security deposit of Rs 1500 would be returned depending on the year at which the JioPhone is being returned.
The amount that would be returned is as follows:
- No money will be returned if the JioPhone is returned in the first year itself.
- Up to Rs 500 will be returned if the JioPhone is returned in the second year of possession.
- Up to Rs 500 will be returned if the JioPhone is returned in the third year of possession.
Again, the money returned will be after appropriate GST cut.
What happens if I lose my JioPhone or my JioPhone is stolen?
In such a scenario, you should call the Jio helpline and get the SIM and mobile phone blocked. Also, your entire security deposit of Rs 1500 will be forfeited by the company and you would not be required to pay anything extra.
Can I use another SIM in the JioPhone?
The clear answer seems NO. Jio also has explicitly mentioned that any attempt to tamper with the software of the JioPhone will automatically render the phone ineligible for return. We expected this even before they updated the T&C, but it’s good that they are making it clear explicitly now.
How long can I keep the JioPhone after the 3 year contract period ends?
One has to make sure that he/she returns the JioPhone within 39 months of possession or 3 months after the contract period ends. If someone doesn’t return the JioPhone 3 months after the contract period ends, then Jio will not refund any amount of the initial security deposit. But we assume users will be able to continue using the JioPhone beyond 39 months if they decide to forfeit the refundable deposit.
Can I cancel my JioPhone pre-order and get back Rs 500?
Unfortunately, you can’t. The Jio team says that one can transfer/sell their pre-order token to someone else if they wish to, but there is no provision (as yet) to cancel the pre-order and get back Rs 500.
Is Reliance Jio Cheating?
The entire point of Reliance giving away the JioPhone at an initial deposit of Rs 1500 which is most likely below the cost of manufacturing the JioPhone was to get a steady source of recurring income from the phone. Jio over here is having the same business plan that companies like Netflix and Spotify have i.e. subscriptions.
With these updated terms and conditions, Jio is most likely just making sure that it is able to hit its internal targets. For example, by requiring users to make a minimum aggregate recharge of Rs 1500 every year, Jio seems to have fixed an ARPU of Rs 125 per JioPhone per month.
Similarly, even though the JioPhone only works with the Jio SIM out of the box, it is always possible through some clever software hacks to make the JioPhone work with the SIM of other telecom operators as well. For example, when the iPhone launched in the US it was exclusive to AT&T and several software hacks or work around were devised to make it work with T-Mobile as well. I can easily see a cottage industry developing around the JioPhone whose only aim would be to modify the software in such a way that the JioPhone works with the SIM of other telecom operators as well and in order to prevent this Jio has explicitly mentioned that any tampering of JioPhone’s software would make it ineligible for returns.
In my opinion, through these updated terms and conditions, Jio is making sure that the public doesn’t outsmart them and exploit some loophole which would put Jio at a loss. I am pretty sure that once the JioPhone reaches the hands of public, more loopholes might be uncovered and Jio would then go on to add more Terms and Conditions to make sure those loopholes get plugged.
We always told how Reliance isn’t doing any charity here and they were indeed hoping to make money through data recharges while helping people acquire the device at low prices. But what concerns us here is that Reliance didn’t make it clear BEFORE people pre-ordered the JioPhone by paying Rs 500 earlier this month. We don’t necessarily imply Jio is being evil here, but it’s extremely important to make the Terms and Conditions clear BEFORE one sells anything. At the least, we hope Reliance Jio will let users cancel their pre-orders and get their Rs 500 back if they so desire.
Raju PP contributed to this post.