Mobile carriers Robi and Grameenphone have filed two cases with a Dhaka court, seeking permanent injunctions against the telecom regulator’s audit claims of Tk 13,447 crore.
The cases were lodged on August 25 and 26 respectively.
On September 5, Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC) issued show cause notices to the operators asking them to explain within 30 days why their lincences would not be cancelled for not paying the dues.
Shahed Alam, chief corporate and regulatory officer at Robi, yesterday said they were trying to resolve the matter amicably through negotiations or arbitration, but the BTRC did not heed to their request for such resolution of disputes.
“Instead, the BTRC has taken steps beyond the legal provisions for realising the amount it claimed through a highly questionable audit. As a result, Robi had no option but to file a civil suit with the court,” he told The Daily Star.
In a separate statement, the GP yesterday said they consistently raised objections to the process, methodology and the findings of the BTRC auditor.
“Despite that, we have been pursuing continuously to establish a constructive dialogue with the regulator to reach an amicable transparent solution, including arbitration. Unfortunately, all our efforts had been unheeded by the BTRC and they have been seeking to realise the disputed audit claims by enforcing unwarranted measures,” the statement said.
Both the cellphone operators said issuing show cause notices to them was “not lawful” as the matter was sub judice.
The telecom regulator ran separate audits into the two operators’ books from their inception until December 2014 and claimed the amounts -- Tk 12,579.95 crore from GP and Tk 867.24 crore from Robi.
The claims include amounts for unpaid yearly spectrum fees, value added tax, and revenue sharing. The BTRC has been claiming the amounts since completing the audits of Robi in July last year and of GP in April this year.
However, both the operators disputed the amounts and claimed that they did not evade any taxes.
On August 22, the government gave the go-ahead to the BTRC to serve show cause notices. The operators filed the cases within days.
The GP on August 22 informed the BTRC about filing of the case and requested the regulator not to serve a show cause notice to it.
Md Rezaul Quader, acting chairman of the BTRC, said they learnt that the GP filled a case before being served with the show cause notice.
He said they were going to hire lawyers to fight the legal battle against the mobile carrier.
The legal team of BTRC said they had no information about the legal move by Robi.
Asked about taking measures against the operators, the BTRC acting chairman said they would take action as per law after scrutinising the replies to the show cause notices.
Rezaul said the law allows them to appoint administrators to run the companies.
“We will keep in mind the interest of users before making any decision. If the government appoints an administrator, it will not harm the interest of users,” he told this newspaper.
The two operators have 12.36 crore active mobile phone connections now, which is 76 percent of the total active connections in the country.
Currently, they are not getting the BTRC’s approval for offering new services and packages to customers. They also cannot import network equipment from abroad. The restrictions were imposed to put pressure on them to clear the dues.
Earlier on July 4, the BTRC had slashed the GP’s bandwidth by 30 percent and the Robi’s by 15 percent. But the bandwidth restriction was withdrawn on July 17 considering the inconvenience to subscribers.