India operators challenged over AGR miss - Mobile World Live

India operators challenged over AGR miss

27 JAN 2020

Bharti Airtel and Vodafone Idea faced a fresh challenge in an ongoing battle over payment of vast sums in additional taxation, after a consumer group lodged a legal bid to force them to stand by a court ruling regarding the charges, The Economic Times (ET) reported.

Neither operator met a deadline to pay the extra tax due after the government revised its definition of adjusted gross revenue (AGR) to include income from non-core activities, which fell late last week. At the time, Deccan Herald reported Airtel and Vodafone Idea held off making the payment until petitions against the fees are heard by a court this week.

Following the miss, the Save Consumer Rights Foundation filed litigation with India’s Supreme Court claiming the government had failed to do enough to ensure operators abided by a previous court decision regarding the additional fees, ET reported. The filing highlights a lack of “coercive action” by the Department of Telecommunication (DoT) against the operators and alleges the companies deliberately missed the deadline.

The newspaper states Vodafone Idea owes around INR530 billion ($7.4 billion), Bharti Airtel about INR350 billion and Tata Teleservices INR140 billion. It noted Reliance Jio paid out the INR1.95 billion it owed on time.

In a related report, ET stated the Cellular Operators Association of India (COAI) lambasted the consumer group’s move, claiming it was taken in bad faith. Rajan Mathews, director general of the association, told the newspaper the action would do little to resolve the tax dispute which, in turn, could ultimately cause more harm to consumers.

Vodafone Idea already threatened to close down over the matter, though it and Airtel have each made moves to raise the sums needed to make the payment.

ET noted the DoT was reluctant to force operators into paying up until a court rules on moves to relax the payment terms.

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