Norwegian telecoms giant Telenor has been fined EUR112 million (USD126 million) by the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA), after the latter concluded that the group’s domestic unit had ‘abused its market dominance by a pricing strategy that resulted in rivals making a loss when selling residential mobile broadband services on tablets and laptops’. Outlining its decision in a press release, the ESA said that, following an in-depth investigation, it had determined that during a ‘critical growth phase in mobile data in Norway’, Telenor Norge’s wholesale prices for access to its network had been priced higher than the retail prices it charged its own residential users for accessing mobile broadband services on large-screen devices, such as tablets and laptops. Arguing that Telenor’s margin squeeze prevented rival providers competing viably between 2008 and end-2012, the ESA said it had found that this amounted to an abuse of Telenor Norge’s dominant position on the wholesale market, in breach of the European Economic Area (EEA) antitrust rules.
Commenting, Frank J Buchel, ESA College Member responsible for competition matters, said: ‘Telenor’s unfair prices weakened competitors in a growth market. As a competition authority working to ensure that consumers are not harmed by anti-competitive actions of dominant firms, ESA cannot allow this type of behaviour to go unchallenged.’
According to the ESA, the fine levied took account of the duration and gravity of the infringement and was calculated ‘on the basis of the value of Telenor’s revenue on the affected markets’. Meanwhile, the ESA has suggested that Telenor could also face civil actions for damages that can be brought before national courts by any person or business affected by its anticompetitive behaviour. For its part, Telenor Norge has said it intends to appeal the fine.