India's fair trade regulator, Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC), yesterday, issued a notice against the three big telecom operators - Bharti Airtel, Vodafone Essar and Idea Cellular - for allegedly forming a cartel to distort competition.
MRTPC's investigative unit DGIR, a bench of the quasi-judicial body, headed by Justice O P Dwivedi, issued "notice of enquiry" and started judicial inquiry against these operators for cartelising and increasing prices of telecom services simultaneously.
In the investigation report, director general of investigations and registrations (DGIR) stated that despite having different cost factors, structures and profits, the three GSM operators fixed the tariff of their local call at Rs 1.20 a minute.
The report further said that though the rental and tariff charges of calls and SMS fall under the 'forbearance category' under the Telecommunications Tariff (23rd amendment) and GSM operators are free to fix any tariff for their services, "But it can not be mere coincidence" that the tariff revision by them is of the identical scale."
The Monopolies and Restrictive Trade Practices Commission (MRTPC) Bench also directed the three companies to file their reply before it within four weeks.
It also said that the area of operation was different. Also, the operation cost of each operator was not on same scale and number of subscribers was different.
In such a scenario, how they landed at the same tariff is a matter of investigation.