Vodafone Essar accused of price fixing in India

The Indian Monopolies and Restrictive Practices Commission (MRTPC) has launched an inquiry into the tariffs charged by the three largest GSM operators, Vodafone Essar, Bharti Airtel and Idea Cellular, to determine if they had formed a cartel to distort competition.

The MRTPC has quoted an example when all three operators increased local call rates on selected tariff plans to Rs 1.20 a minute from Re 1.00 a minute. The three companies also hiked the SMS tariffs to Rs 1.20 from Re 1.00. The MRTPC claims that, despite having different cost factors, structures and profits, the three operators had jointly increased their local call rates to Rs 1.20 a minute. "It cannot be mere coincidence that the tariff revision by them is of identical scale," said the government body. The three operators have been given three weeks to file their reply.

Separately, Bharti Airtel is reported to be targeting acquisitions around the world, particularly in emerging markets. We're happy to look at any opportunities around the globe, both organic and existing operators. We like emerging markets," said chairman Sunil Mittal. Bharti Airtel reported a better-than-expected 42 per cent jump in net profit to Rs 17.22 billion for the fiscal third quarter ended December. 

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