MTN to appeal $14m licence fee ruling in Uganda

MTN Uganda says it will appeal a decision by the country’s High Court ordering the company to pay $14.1 million for a transitional licence.

The operator had petitioned the court challenging the legality of an assessment by the Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) for a transitional licence between 2018 and June 2020.

During this period, MTN was operating in accordance with short-term licence extensions as a result of protracted licence renewal negotiations due to increased licence fees, which the company was ordered to pay.

However, the court dismissed MTN’s petition with costs and directed that the operator pay the required fee for the transitional licence.

Judge Musa Ssekaana said, as the regulator of the telecommunications industry, the UCC had the mandate and the knowledge to assess fees for the licences, and added that there had been no impropriety on the part of UCC’s decision to impose transitional fees based on a pro-rated assessment and that the same was fairly arrived at as guided by the amount of $100 million paid by MTN for the current renewed licence.

Ssekaana said the determination and charging of licence fees is one of the operational administrative powers excisable by UCC under the Uganda Communications Act of 2013.

“It has been shown that UCC arrived at the amount payable as transitional fees in the fairest manner and no reasonable person would think otherwise. Any amount beyond what was agreed and paid for in the national operator licence would have been challenged as being excessive and using the figure originally paid in second national operator licence in 1998 would have been irrational since it would be extremely low,” said the judge.

MTN released a statement confirming its decision to appeal.

MTN public relations manager Rhona Arinaitwe says: “MTN is confident that the Court of Appeal will at an appropriate time consider all matters raised by MTN comprehensively and pronounce itself in accordance with the law and evidence on record.

“MTN is a responsible corporate citizen committed to meeting all its lawful obligations and remains committed to playing its part in the development of the telecom industry in Uganda.”

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