SBB accuses utility firm of abusing its position with price hike

20 May 2020

Serbian cable operator Serbia Broadband (SBB) has accused sector watchdog the Republic Agency for Electronic Communications (RATEL) of failing in its duties to regulate telecommunications markets, after the operator came to blows with utility firm Elektroprivreda Serbia (EPS) over a price hike for using its poles. Local news agency Beta writes that SBB accused EPS of abusing its monopoly status, as the only company that owns and operates utility poles, claiming that the energy firm was ‘trying to impose unfair conditions by demanding an increased compensation of 108% for each pole in Belgrade, or 64% for the rest of Serbia’. SBB went on to point out that there had been no justification for the ‘enormous price increase’ and claimed that the demanded rates were the highest in the region and ‘much higher than in many EU countries’. In addition to the price increase, EPS had filed a lawsuit with the Commercial Court for payment of EUR1.18 million (USD1.29 million) for the use of its infrastructure in Belgrade, Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Nis and Novi Sad, and for the removal of SBB’s equipment from its poles.

Responding to the accusations, EPS said that it was forced to address the matter in court after several appeals to SBB, and denied the claim that it had doubled its prices. According to EPS, the previous contract with SBB had expired in June 2019 and a new agreement with SBB had not been reached. As such, SBB had no legal basis to use the utility poles, the company argued. EPS went on to note that of the 65 cable operators with installations on its poles, 62 had agreed to the new conditions.

SBB called for RATEL and the Commission for the Protection of Competition (Komisiji za zastitu konkurencije, KZK) to intervene in the matter, but RATEL is understood to have rejected the demand, on the basis that most operators had accepted EPS’s new rates.