Indian e-commerce major Flipkart has said that it will not partner in mobile carrier Airtel's new platform Airtel Zero following strong protests from customers.
Last week, Airtel announced Airtel Zero, which would allow app makers to pay for data accessed by their users. Flipkart was one of the supporters of the scheme, and its CEO Sachin Bansal said zero-rated apps are not against net neutrality, instead are good for the consumers.
However, consumers were not convinced and many companies such as Zomato, spoke out against Airtel Zero. The customers that started their protest against Airtel earlier, turned against Flipkart as well and rated its mobile app poorly.
Given the rising customer dissatisfaction, Flipkart changed its stance and issued a statement saying that it will not partner with Airtel Zero.
"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 company said.
Flipkart said that the e-tailer will be walking away from ongoing discussions with Airtel and "will be committing ourselves 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," it added.
Meanwhile, Airtel India CEO Gopal Vittal defended its concept in an interview with Economic Times, saying it is a "way of getting a billion customers on the internet".
"We stand committed to the product. We are disappointed by the kind of criticism on the product. This cannot be a conversation on rich versus the poor. We are trying to bridge the divide," he said.
The proposed Airtel Zero platform would allow companies and developers offer their apps to consumers for free, just like the idea behind toll-free calls, wherein customers will not be levied data charges.
However, critics believe that such a system would lead to a closed internet, where one firm can effectively lock its rivals out with the help of service providers, hurting competition.