As expected, France’s three mobile operators have been handed hefty fines following allegations of market collusion. Reports from local press had predicted that the total fines would amount to several hundred thousand euros, but the competition watchdog Conseil de la Concurrence is demanding a total of EUR534 million from the three firms. To add to their troubles, Orange, SFR and Bouygues may also face a class-action suit led by the consumer association UFC-Que Choisir which filed the original complaint against them.
The Conseil says all three operators were guilty of exchanging confidential information between 1997 and 2003, commenting: “The council is of the opinion that, while the discussions did not concern the price decisions that they were to take, the exchange of information was of such a nature that it reduced the intensity of competition on the mobile telecommunications market.”
Orange, which has received the largest fine of EUR256 million, says it will appeal the decision, commenting: “On account of its excessive nature, this ruling could have a serious impact on public confidence in one of the most dynamic sectors of the country’s economy.” SFR says it too will appeal, labelling its EUR220 million fine “disproportionate and unfounded”. The smallest of the three cellcos, Bouygues Telecom, must pay EUR58 million. The company has yet to comment on the regulator’s decision.