Grameenphone, Robi take BTRC to court over unpaid dues in audit

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2019-09-11 20:48:32 BdST

Grameenphone and Robi have moved a Dhaka court in a bid to settle the dispute over ‘unpaid dues’ found in audit which the mobile telecom operators called ‘unfounded’ and ‘faulty’.

The country’s two top networks started separate cases on Aug 25 and 26 respectively.

The Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission or BTRC earlier claimed Grameenphone was yet to pay about Tk 125.8 billion and Robi over Tk 8.67 billion in “dues found in audit”.

On Sep 5, the telecom regulator served notices on Grameenphone and Robi, asking them to explain within 30 days why their licences to offer 2G and 3G services will not be revoked for failure to pay up “dues” found in audit despite reminders.

“We have been consistently raising objections to the process, methodology and the findings of the auditor resulting in the demand. Despite that we have been pursuing continuously to establish a constructive dialogue with the regulator to reach an amicable transparent solution, including arbitration,” Grameenphone said in a statement sent via email.

“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. 

“Therefore, Grameenphone was constrained to file Civil Suit on 26 August, 2019. The matter is now sub-judice before the Hon’ble court,” the operator said.

Robi Head of Regulatory Affairs Shahed Alam, in an email, said, “The audit report and its findings have no legal basis and Robi has been wholeheartedly trying to resolve the matter amicably through negotiation or arbitration.

“However, BTRC has not heeded to our request for such resolution of disputes. Instead BTRC has taken steps beyond the legal provisions for realization of amount claimed through highly questionable audit.

“As a result, Robi had no option but to file a civil suit before the court. Therefore the matter is sub judice and Robi looks forward to the decision of the court in this regard,” he added.

BTRC Senior Assistant Director Md Zakir Hossain Khan told, "We have been informed of the matter."

The BTRC had sent notices to the operators pursuant to section 46(2) of the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulation Act, 2001, asking why their licences will not be scrapped.

In a reprisal for the failure of the operators to pay up the “dues” despite reminders, it ordered the International Internet Gateway or IIG operators to limit Grameenphone’s bandwidth capacity by 30 percent and Robi’s 15 percent on July 4.

But the BTRC rolled back the internet bandwidth cuts for the operators 13 days later citing “problems facing users”.

Both Grameenphone and Robi continue to provide their services despite the BTRC stopping issuing NOCs. However, they cannot expand their networks or install BTS, introduce new packages, or change any existing packages.

By doing so, the authorities have hampered the users’ interest, damaged the national economy and even tarnished the country’s image, claim both operators.

Grameenphone and Robi had both proposed to settle the dispute through arbitration after raising objections to the BTRC’s demand.

But the BTRC stuck to its gun, saying there is no provision of arbitration in its policy.

Out of over 160 million registered mobile phone SIM cards, Grameenphone has 74.7 million and Robi 47.6 million. It means 46.49 mobile phone users of Bangladesh receive Grameenphone services and 29.65 percent have chosen Robi.

About 88.6 million people in Bangladesh use internet on mobile phones, which is 93.87 percent of the 94.4 million total internet users.