CCI seeks telcos’ reaction to Reliance Jio claim

CCI seeks telcos’ reaction to Reliance Jio claim 

NEW DELHI: The Competition Commission of India has asked telecom operators Bharti AirtelBSE 1.31 %, Idea CellularBSE 2.96 % and Vodafone India to file preliminary responses by January 31on Reliance Jio Infocomm’s complaint that they had formed a cartel to try and block its entry by denying it adequate points of interconnection.
“The commission has sought the responses by February and the hearing for the matter is in March,” people familiar with the matter told ET. On January 31, the commission will hold a sort of consultation on the matter to understand the responses of all sides, they said The commission has sought responses from the three top telcos on a number of complaints filed at the commission, including one that says they ganged up and were deliberately providing poor-quality service.
Vodafone remained unanswered till as of press time. The development adds to the ongoing tussle between the two parties. Airtel, Idea and Vodafone have already filed complaints at various legal forums, including a case filed by Vodafone at the Delhi High Court, against the penalties recommended by the telecom regulator on the three for not providing sufficient connectivity to Reliance Jio.

Airtel and Idea have filed a case against the regulator, seeking a quashing of Reliance Jio’s free voice and data plans, which they claim have been wrongly permitted.

Experts said that given the high stakes in the battle, the sector is likely to see a significant rise in the number of legal cases this year since telecom operators on both sides are going to contest any decision that could impact business.

“With the new government, litigation or challenging government/regulatory demands in courts had become a thing of the past. However, we could see a revival of that trend in the sector,” said Prashant Singhal, global leader for telecom at EY.
ET had previously reported that Reliance Jio had filed a formal complaint in November under Section 19(1) for an inquiry.

A complaint filed under Section 19 (1) allows CCI to inquire into any alleged contravention of anti-competitive agreements or abuse of dominant position in the market. As a next step, the CCI will order an investigation under Section 26 of the Competition Act and it may close the matter if it does not find anything anti-competitive. However, if the investigation finds violation of Competition Act rules, it will pass an order under Section 27.

Reliance Jio is believed to be relying heavily on the telecom regulator’s observation that the top three incumbents were not providing it adequate points of connectivity to complete calls on its network, as a result of which the company was facing as much as 75% call failure.