Mobile industry body COAI today accused Reliance Jio of “attacking, belittling and making false imputations” against the association, and warned the newcomer not to make “false” allegations to tarnish its image.
The Cellular Operators’ Association of India (COAI) also sought public apology from Jio for its recent remarks, and said its allegations against the industry body’s Director General were “uncalled for and in bad taste”.
COAI said it reserves the right to initiate legal action against Reliance Jio for alleged “false and malicious imputations” against the association and its officers.
“You are advised to withdraw your captioned notice and issue a public apology to us for your notice on behalf of RJIL (Reliance Jio Infocomm). You and RJIL are also advised to abstain from threatening us with legal action without cause or basis as you have done…,” COAI said in the five page letter to the Reliance Jio.
It may be recalled that Jio had lashed out at the older operators as well as the COAI for their allegations that telecom regulator Trai’s orders were favouring the newcomer. Jio had termed the COAI’s February 20 press statement in this regard as being “defamatory”, “slanderous” and “libelous”.
In its letter to Reliance Jio, COAI Director General Rajan Mathews said that as an industry body, the association was “well within its rights” to voice its views or concerns over regulatory decisions that were “detrimental to the growth and development of the telecom sector”.
COAI further argued that mere voicing of its views “does not form and cannot form a case of defamation” as alleged by Jio in its recent legal notice.
“Merely because Reliance Jio (RJIL) happens to disagree with the position that COAI has taken in the press release, does not and cannot imply, as your captioned notice has sought to, that the COAI harbours any malicious intentions against RJIL,” COAI retorted in a letter dated February 28.
COAI also charged Jio of side-lining genuine issues sought to be raised by the association in its press release, and “attacking, belittling and making false imputations” against it.
It also accused Jio of attempting to malign the reputation of COAI every time the association took a stand which the company did not agree with.
The war of words erupted after COAI alleged that Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai’s) regulations, including its rules and definition of predatory pricing, had distorted the market.
COAI, last month, had also alleged that the orders appeared “to be strengthening the ambitions of one particular operator with deep pockets and monopolistic designs at the expense of other operators”, although it did not name Reliance Jio which has hit the incumbent operators hard by its aggressive pricing of mobile services, especially data tariffs.
Reliance Jio had hit back terming COAI’s allegations as “defamatory” and “malicious” and had also demanded that both the association and Mathews tender public apology on the issue.
COAI, in the latest letter, said that Jio’s allegations that it had acted arbitrarily, discriminatorily or as “mouthpiece” of some members, was “misconceived”.
Defending its concerns on the definition of significant market power in Trai’s predatory pricing rules, COAI claimed that no benefit accrues to consumer on account of the revised definition.
COAI said that all its members, with sole exception to RJIL, were on board on the association’s public stance on the issue, dated February 20.