French regulatory round-up: FT, Bouygues walk away with bloody noses

2 Apr 2009

The European Union’s (EU’s) Court of Justice has today rejected Bouygues Telecom’s bid to overturn a European Commission ruling that allowed the French authorities to alter the terms and conditions of a 3G licence auction in 2001. The court upheld a previous verdict by the Court of First Instance in 2007, saying the reduction in licence fees due from France Telecom (Orange), and SFR did not ‘constitute state aid’, and did not ‘infringe the principle of non-discrimination’.

In a separate adjudication, the Court of Justice has dismissed an appeal by FT against a fine of EUR10.35 million (USD13.7 million) for preventing competition in the domestic broadband market. The EU’s highest court ruled to uphold a 2003 European Commission decision that found the incumbent guilty of barring rivals from the high speed internet market with artificially low prices. In its original investigation the Commission’s antitrust regulator found that FT’s internet unit (then known as Wanadoo) had charged its end users broadband access rates in 2001/02 that were below cost, while simultaneously charging rivals high fees for access to its network to offset the losses.