Paving the way for Rs 3,050 crore cumulative penal action on telecom operators Bharti Airtel, Vodafone and Idea Cellular, the Attorney General is learnt to have opined that the Department of Telecom has power to impose penalty on grounds of poor quality of service. “AG has opined that DoT can impose penalty on telecom operators for violating quality of service rules,” a source told PTI.
Reacting to the development, Bharti Airtel Chairman Sunil Bharti Mittal said, “We have taken a position that these penalties have been completely done in haste. We have written to TRAI, we have written to DoT. What I understand, DoT has set up a committee to look into this recommendation of TRAI. We are all waiting for the outcome of that.” The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) had recommended imposing Rs 1,050 crore penalty each on Airtel and Vodafone and Rs 950 crore on Idea for violating quality of service rules.
TRAI, in its recommendation to DoT, said it has found the trio non-compliant with licence conditions and service quality norms, given the high rate of call failures and congestion at interconnect points for Reliance Jio. Following TRAI’s recommendation, the Telecom Department sought AG’s opinion on the matter last week, sources pointed out. The DoT was awaiting AG’s opinion before proceeding on the penalty suggestion of TRAI.
While giving its recommendation to DoT, TRAI had noted that denial of interconnection by the three operators to Reliance Jio “appears to be with the ulterior motive to stifle competition and is anti-consumer”. The regulator had, in fact, stopped short of recommending cancellation of their telecom licences, saying it may lead to “significant consumer inconvenience”. The recommendation came on complaint by Reliance Jio that over 75 per cent of calls on its network were failing as incumbents were not giving sufficient points of interconnect to help complete calls.