WOM accuses trio of abusing market dominance

13 Sep 2016

Chilean mobile provider WOM has filed a complaint with the National Economic Prosecutor (Fiscalia Nacional Economica, FNE) accusing Entel, Movistar Chile and Claro Chile of anticompetitive practices, La Tercera writes. WOM claims that the trio have ring-fenced their user base by offering equipment that is only compatible with their networks. WOM is the only provider in Chile to use the AWS band for its network, and the cellco claims that its rivals are limiting the availability of compatible handsets to their customers to prevent users porting out to WOM. The operator is requesting compensation of USD250 million, claiming that at least three million customers were unable to port to their network due to equipment problems and adding that the failure costed those users an extra CLP100,000 (USD148.4) per year as WOM’s tariffs were typically CLP5,000 to CLP7,000 cheaper than those of its competitors.

According to WOM CEO Chris Bannister, the provider was alerted to the problem by the public, prompting the cellco to work with manufactures to ease the issue. That measure failed to have a noticeable impact though, and the cellco then successfully appealed to the regulator, the Department of Telecommunications (Subsecretaria de Telecomunicaciones, Subtel) to introduce new rules requiring all handsets sold to be fully compatible with all available cellular technologies in Chile. Mr Bannister claims a ‘powerful lobbying machine’ managed to push the implementation of the new regulations back to the first quarter of 2017, delaying its introduction until after the Christmas period, the busiest time for handset sales. As such, WOM claims the trio are now solely importing devices incompatible with its network. TeleGeography notes, however, that devices compatible with the AWS band are currently available online from all three of the accused providers.