EC dismisses SFR complaint against Orange and Free

16 Apr 2013

The European Commission (EC) has dismissed a complaint filed by French telco SFR against its rivals Orange France and Free Mobile, after it concluded that the mobile roaming agreement between the two network providers was not an acquisition, as defined in acquisition law, and as such, had not infringed EU directives.

SFR accused Orange’s parent company France Telecom-Orange of obtaining control over start-up Free Mobile through a roaming arrangement that allowed the newcomer to offer its mobile services at very competitive rates over the Orange network, when it launched in January 2012. According to the contract, the details of which are confidential, Free Mobile is certified to use Orange France’s 2G and 3G network for six years until it can fully develop its own national structure. It has been suggested that SFR may have lodged its complaint in order to gain access to the classified document.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, the French government called on the country’s independent competition watchdog Autorite de la Concurrence to examine Iliad group’s Free Mobile operation in October 2012, after competitors complained that the fledgling cellco was being given an unfair advantage – and one that they were not able to benefit from when they were in the early stages of deploying their own networks.