GP-Robi file cases against BTRC

Grameenphone (GP) and Robi recently filed two separate cases with a Dhaka court, seeking injunctions against the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission’s (BTRC's). 

They came up with the move when the BTRC served show-cause notices to the country’s two largest telecom operators, giving them 30 days to reply to explain why their licences should not be cancelled for not paying the dues of Tk 13,447 crore. GP and Robi on September 6, sought more time from the BTRC and asked the telecom regulator to revoke the 30-day deadline.

According to information, GP lodged the case on August 26, while Robi had lodged the case on August 25. The telecom regulator, meanwhile, has thought of appointing an administrator to realise its dues as the two operators have been reluctant to pay. The operators said for realising dues, there were provisions of filing cases under the Public Demands Recovery (PDR) Act, but the BTRC had not opted for that path. 

Md Hasan, head of external communications, corporate communications of GP told Bangladesh Post that, “Grameenphone would reiterate that we have been consistently raising objections to the process, methodology and the findings of the auditor resulting in the demand.” Hasan said, “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 realize the disputed audit claims by enforcing unwarranted measures. Therefore, Grameenphone was constrained to file Civil Suit on 26 August, 2019. The matter is now sub-judice before the court”.

Earlier BTRC Chairman Jahurul Haque told Bangladesh Post, “The telecom operators must pay the due bills we have claimed, there is no alternative.”

“We are dealing with the issue as per legal procedure. None would be allowed to dodge government dues,” he added. 

On the other hand, immediately after serving the notice by BTRC, GP's share prices have plummeted. According to the Dhaka Stock Exchange (DSE) data, the stock price has dropped by Tk 122 in the last five months and the price of each share is now less than Tk 300. Each share was Tk 417 on April 1, but the price fell to Tk 295 at the end of the transaction on Thursday. The company's share in the market is Tk 135 crore.  In December 2017, the NBR issued a demand notice to GP, asking the firm to pay another Taka 378.95 crore in taxes. There are allegations that the company did not pay VAT and supplementary duty amounting to Taka 348 crore on SIM cards sold from 2006 to 2007.  Adding interest, the NBR is demanding Tk 452 crore from GP. The firm had also reportedly evaded taxes amounting to Tk 100 crore and Tk 29 crore in two phases, by illegally using exemptions.