Bouygues accuses Free of ‘misleading commercial practice’

27 Nov 2014

French operator Bouygues Telecom has reportedly filed a complaint with the Commercial Court of Paris against rival Free Mobile (Iliad), accusing it of ‘misleading commercial practice’ with regards to the roaming agreement between Free and market leader Orange Group, Les Echos reports. Bouygues reportedly argued: ‘It is now established that when Free Mobile uses the Orange network, Free drastically reduces the flow of customers [for] certain types of services, even though they do not reach the consumption threshold that is attached to them [3GB].’ The move is reportedly aimed at reducing Free’s payments for roaming over Orange’s network.

According to Bouygues, if what it termed as ‘targeted clamping’ had not occurred, Free Mobile ‘should had passed the real roaming costs in the price of its offerings, which would necessarily lead to higher prices’. Bouygues is reportedly seeking EUR100 million (USD125.2 million) in damages, as a result of a ‘margin loss’. The case hearing is scheduled for 18 December 2014.

According to TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Free was awarded a 3G concession in mid-January 2010 and duly entered into a 2G/3G wholesale roaming agreement with rival Orange France, which allowed Free’s subscribers to roam on the Orange network while the cellco built out its own infrastructure. The 3G roaming agreement between the two sides will end in 2018, at which date Free must cover 90% of the population with its own 3G infrastructure, as outlined in its licence obligations. However, Iliad’s owner Xavier Niel complained in November 2014 that the roaming agreement with Orange ‘costs a fortune’ and is plagued by ‘saturation problems’.