FT: Bouygues considers adding weight to Vivendi/Iliad complaint

12 May 2009

French telecoms operator Bouygues Telecom is considering joining a complaint to the EU from peer companies Vivendi and Iliad accusing former monopoly France Telecom (FT) of abusing its dominant position in the market, Reuters reports. ‘At this stage, Bouygues Telecom is thinking about this possibility,’ a company spokeswoman said in reaction to a story due to be published in French newspaper Le Figaro on Tuesday that cites sources as saying it is thinking of adding its name to the complaint.

In March this year FT, which uses the Orange brand, rejected rivals’ accusations it is abusing its dominant position in relation to the amount it charges competitors for accessing its fixed line network. At the time Orange France deputy managing director Louis-Pierre Wenes said that demands by rival firms that it should hive off its fixed line network operations are unfounded and constitute ‘attempts by our competitors to try to change the rules of the game and raise their profits’. FT’s harshest critics, Vivendi-backed SFR and Iliad (Free), had earlier jointly filed a complaint with the European Commission alleging that FT was stifling competition. They alleged the former monopoly’s 2008 EBITDA of EUR7 billion (USD9.4 billion) – as compared with SFR’s EUR700 million and EUR400 million for Iliad – was proof positive of the incumbent’s continued domination of the market. FT’s rivals claim the former monopoly is over-charging for wholesale access to its legacy copper wire network, and contend the telco overpaid for TV content rights in an effort to squeeze the profits of rivals such as Canal+. In its defence, Mr Wenes pointed to the fact that FT is losing around 200,000 fixed line connections every quarter to competition, and that its access charges are needed to maintain and upgrade its ‘old’ copper network.

France, Bouygues Telecom