India

India's Flipkart pulls out of controversial Airtel deal

Flipkart customer Image copyright AFP
Image caption Flipkart is India's biggest online retailer

India's biggest online retailer has pulled out of a controversial deal after a social media backlash.

Flipkart had agreed a deal with phone network Airtel to let customers browse its site for free, with Flipkart picking up their internet data costs.

But critics said this went against net neutrality.

Net neutrality means service providers should treat all traffic equally. Users should be able to access all websites at the same speed and cost.

Flipkart's chief executive Sachin Bansal had defended the deal.

But the firm has now changed its mind after a flurry of users took to social media saying they were deleting the company's app from their phones in protest, says the BBC's Simon Atkinson in Mumbai.

"We at Flipkart have always strongly believed in the concept of net neutrality, for we exist because of the internet," a statement from Flipkart said.

The company added it was "walking away from the ongoing discussions with Airtel for their platform Airtel Zero".

Airtel Zero is a platform that allows customers to access mobile applications for free, with the internet data charges being paid by the companies owning the application.

More than 100,000 people have emailed India's telecom regulator demanding that the government protect net neutrality.

The government has set up a panel to review the issue.

Telecom Minister Ravi Shankar Prasad has said the panel's report "on the whole gamut of net neutrality objective, its benefits, advantages and limitations including the regulatory and technical issues" would be presented in the middle of May.

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