Ireland’s leading provider of pre-paid phone cards, Dome Telecom, is suing former monopoly operator eircom, accusing it of ‘discriminatory pricing’ in a case that could ultimately cost the incumbent up to EUR60 million. Dome Telecom is claiming that since 2001 eircom has levied extra charges on it whenever customers have made calls from payphones using Dome phonecards, but that it does not pass these charges on to foreign-based rivals, creating an uneven playing field on which Dome is forced to compete. Eircom said ‘We deny these allegations (of discriminatory pricing) and we will vigorously defend the case’.
The former monopoly is believed to have been given permission to pass on the so-called ‘off-book’ prices to Irish operators by Comreg, but Dome’s petition is designed to test whether eircom also charges foreign telecoms operators, or its own retail operations. Other Irish telecoms service providers are eagerly watching developments, unhappy at the way eircom has been allowed to pass on off-book prices. If Dome is successful in its law suit, it could open the floodgates for similar legal challenges that could ultimately cost it tens of millions of euros. The chairman of Alto, the industry group that represents alternative operators in Ireland, Tom Hickey, is reported to have said: ‘If Dome is successful, it will prove that there is an issue for the other operators. There could be more than one company in the same situation.’