Reliance Jio threatens to take legal action against COAI

Response comes after COAI writes to PMO a second time, accusing Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Jio of evading payment of revenue share and levies


Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint\
Photo: Abhijit Bhatlekar/Mint\

Reliance Jio Infocomm Ltd on Monday threatened to take legal action against the telecom lobby group Cellular Operators’ Association of India, or COAI, accusing it of maligning and damaging its interests.

The company’s response came after COAI earlier in the day wrote to the prime minister’s office for the second time, accusing Mukesh Ambani-controlled Reliance Jio of evading payment of revenue share and levies.

In a letter addressed to Rajan S. Mathews, director general at COAI, Reliance Jio accused the telecom lobby of breach of trust, fraudulent conduct, and gross misrepresentation of facts with wilful and deliberate intent to malign and damage the interests of Reliance Jio.

“Reliance Jio reserves all its rights to take any or all available legal recourse against COAI, including anyone who were par-ties to such acts, in their individual or other capacities,” Reliance Jio said.

The COAI wrote to the prime minister’s office that around 2.5 million of Reliance Jio’s 3 million active users are given free data and voice disguised as pre-launch test.

The letter raised concerns of a non-level playing field.

“The data traffic generated by such so-called beta tests which, as per field understanding, is rivaling the combined traffic of the rest of the operators who have been in operation for 12/20 years, is using spectrum allocated for commercial use on revenue share principle (designed to provide revenue to the government), yet statedly yielding no revenue and consequently no share to the government,” the letter from COAI said.

On 11 August, COAI had written to the prime minister’s office accusing the Telecom regulatory Authority of India (Trai) of following a discriminatory pattern towards existing telecom operators to benefit Reliance Jio, citing recent consultations and regulations issued by Trai especially on reduction of interconnection charges.

Reliance Jio countered, saying that COAI is promoting cartelization disguised as promoting the industry cause, while actually perpetrating anti-competitive practices and misguiding the authorities and consumers.

A senior official of the Department of Telecommunication, requesting anonymity, said that the allegations of the Trai being biased are not true.

“The timing (of issuing consultation paper on interconnection charges) has not been right because it makes it appear that Trai is supporting a new telecom operator. I don’t agree that Trai may be biased but the circumstances are such that it appears to be so,” the official said.

The official further said the spat between existing and new operators is nothing new and a similar disruption happened in 2002 when Reliance Infocomm (now Reliance Communications Ltd) launched telecom services.

The official also rejected allegations that Reliance Jio is rolling out its services fully without an official launch.

“It is expected that clarity on Reliance Jio launching services shall be available in a week,” he said.

COAI, which represents leading telecom operators Bharti Airtel Ltd, Idea Cellular Ltd, Vodafone India and others, had earlier written to the Department of Telecommunication, accusing Reliance Jio of non-compliance with regulations and providing full services disguised as tests while using the resources of the existing telecom companies.

Reliance Jio called the COAI allegations “malicious and ill informed” in a response to the Department of Telecommunication.

Reliance Jio is also a member of COAI.

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