Bharti Airtel facing $28m in fines

Dylan Bushell-Embling
28 Mar 2011

India's Bharti Airtel could be on the hook for up to 1.26 billion rupees ($28.4 million) worth of fines over misreported revenue and alleged failure to comply with regulatory requirements.

The company will soon be served with a demand by the Department of Telecom (DoT) to pay dues owing as a result of alleged underreported revenue over two financial years.

The DoT has not said how much it will demand, but sources told India's Business Standard it could be as much as 1 billion rupees.

Bharti has denied any wrongdoing, stating the discrepancy is merely down to a difference in interpretation of the revenue figures used to calculate its dues.

As well as Bharti Airtel, the DoT has also audited Vodafone Essar, Reliance Communications, Idea Cellular and Tata Teleservices, and is pondering similar action against all of these.

The Jammu and Kashmir enforcement arm of the DoT could separately fine Bharti Airtel 260 million rupees for alleged failure to follow guidelines on verifying prepaid subscribers for security purposes, Economic Times reported.

The DoT ordered operators to reverify all of their subscribers in the region back in 2009, after unverified phones were used to plan terrorist attacks. According to the DoT, Bharti had allowed unverified pre-paid subscribers to top up their credit – a violation of the regulator's rules.

Bharti Airtel has petitioned the branch to lower the fine per offense to just 1,000 rupees, instead of the current 50,000.

DoT is itself considering lowering the charge to 5,000 rupees per offense, even though the department in February said it will not be lenient on these fines.

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