Two members of the six-member Competition Commission of India have submitted a dissent note against the majority view that the competition watchdog conduct a detailed investigation into the charges of cartelisation made by Reliance Jio against Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular.
The investigation, ordered by the majority ruling, is based on prima facie evidence that the three incumbent operators had colluded among themselves and through their association Cellular Operators Association of India to deny sufficient points of interconnect to Jio, thus trying to block its entry into the mobile services business.
However, it has come to light now that the order was not a unanimous one. Two members — Sudhir Mittal and Justice GP Mittal — in their dissent note have instead blamed Jio for violating the regulatory norms by creating a huge subscriber base before the commercial launch, giving wrong estimates of its subscriber base and average call duration, which were responsible for congestion of its network. The two members have also clearly stated that it is not the job of the CCI to be concerned with sufficiency of PoIs as these are to be dealt with by the Telecom Commission/ Telecom Regulatory Authority of India/ Department of Telecommunications/Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal.
“The fact remains that there is no material from which the Commission at this stage can hold even prima facie that the incumbent telecom operators (ITOs) acted in concert to impede the entry of Jio in the market and to limit supply, technical development and provision of services in the market,” the two have said in their dissent note.
Holding Jio responsible for disrupting the market in violation of the regulations, the two members have cited a DoT circular dated August 29, 2005, which states that an operator making an entry into the market is not expected to create any subscriber base during the test period. The test cards are to be issued to business associates, employees, relations etc only for the purpose of checking quality of service. “However, this does not seem to be the case with RJIL. Thus, the alleged non-provisioning of demanded PoIs by the ITOs or reasonability of demand needs to be seen in this light,” the two members have observed in their dissent note.