The Czech Republic’s anti-monopoly office (Urad Pro Ochranu Hospodarske Souteze, UOHS) has revealed it is launching a formal investigation into the country’s mobile market to establish whether there is evidence of collusion and/or coordinated action among mobile network operators (MNOs) concerning pricing. ‘The goal will be to find out whether there exists any reason for the competition regulator to take action in these markets,’ it said in a statement on its website. ‘This will concern investigating indications whether … there has been banned coordination by competitors, or abuse of a dominant position,’ it added.
The move comes amid criticism of the country’s largest mobile operators – O2, T-Mobile and Vodafone – which stand accused of levying some of the highest voice and data charges in mainland Europe. Only last month, political parties in the Czech Republic agreed to fast-track a telecoms bill that would reduce mobile phone bills, and specifically mobile data charges. Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has said that the bill will be presented before elections in October, with the move coming not long after his decision in February to dismiss his industry minister after accusing him of being too passive on the matter. ‘I welcome this agreement, because it guarantees customers that their rights will improve by the end of this election cycle,’ the prime minister said of the fast-rack bill. It is understood that as politicians have reached a ‘gentlemen’s agreement’ on the bill, legislators will start work on the bill on 4 April; the new legislation will give more powers to the regulator, Czech Telecommunication Office (Cesky telekomunikacni urad, CTU), to impose heavier fines and improve consumer rights to protect them from ‘unfair’ contracts.