India’s Digital Communications Commission (DCC) called for fines levied against Vodafone Idea and Bharti Airtel to be slashed because tough trading conditions have taken a toll on their earnings, The Economic Times (ET) reported.

The commission backed the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s (TRAIs) decision to penalise the operators for hindering rival Reliance Jio’s access to interconnection points, made in 2016, but argued the fine should be reduced from its current level of INR500 million ($7.2 million) per service area to between INR5 million and INR50 million per circle, ET said.

TRAI’s fine is the maximum it can impose in the matter, totalling INR30.5 billion against Bharti Airtel and what is now Vodafone Idea. The penalty related to a complaint by Reliance Jio alleging the incumbents formed a cartel to deny it adequate points of interconnection. It said at the time more than 75 per cent of calls on its network were failing.

DCC, formerly the Telecom Commission, is the highest decision-making body at India’s Department of Telecommunications.

The newspaper suggested the operators are likely to take the matter to court if any penalty is imposed, regardless of any reduction.

Bharti Airtel’s net profit fell 62.7 per cent year-on-year to INR4.1 billion in the year to end-March, while Vodafone Idea remained in the red during its fiscal Q4 (also to end-March), albeit the figure was down sequentially.

Annual comparisons are not yet available for the company, which was formed in August 2018.