SC combines cases on SMS termination charges, next hearing in September

By August 28th, 2016 AT 2:28 AM

The Supreme Court issued a notice to Vodafone India on a plea filed by Aircel India against the SMS termination charges the former levied on it. According to Aircel, the charges of 10 paise as SMS termination charges are arbitrary and not cost-based reports The Financial Express.

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Similar cases exist between Reliance Telecom and Tata Teleservices Ltd against Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular Ltd. Termination charges are supposed to be paid by the operator on whose network the SMS originates to the operator on whose network the SMS is sent. These charges impact tariffs.

The cases first originated in 2012, when Vodafone demanded Rs. 40 crore as SMS termination fee along with the tax from Aircel for the period from April 2011 to September 2012. This was opposed by Aircel. The Telecom Disputes Settlement and Appellate Tribunal (TDSAT) passed an interim order settling the case, directing Aircel to pay 5 paise per SMS, half of Vodafone’s demand of 10 paise per SMS as a termination fee.

In the case between Bharti Airtel and Reliance, Airtel demanded a bill of Rs. 11.86 crores towards termination charge from Reliance. TDSAT upheld the fixation of 10 paise as SMS termination charges and Reliance was directed to make the payment to Airtel.

In both the cases, Reliance and Aircel approached the Supreme Court highlighting the factor that TDSAT has gone against the directions issued by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) in May 2013, which said that the SMS termination charges will be based on “bill and keep” arrangement. Under the arrangement, the operators neither raised a bill on termination charges nor made any payments.

“The tribunal failed to appreciate that in view of 2013 Regulation, the decision in Aircel matter was no longer good law and had to be reconsidered by TDSAT,” the company stated in the appeals.

A bench comprising justices Kurian Joseph and Rohinton F. Nariman tagged the similar pleas together and will attend the hearing in September.

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