EC raids European operators over anti-competitive practices

The European Union’s antitrust regulators have raided the offices of several European mobile operator groups. Deutsche Telekom has confirmed that it was one of the firms raided, while Orange and Telefonica were reportedly targeted as well. The operators are suspected of abusing their dominant position in the market.

The European Commission confirmed that on July 9, 2013 its officials initiated unannounced inspections at the premises of a number of telecommunications companies active in the EU. The Commission said that the companies concerned “may have violated EU antitrust rules that prohibit the abuse of a dominant market position”. The officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the relevant national competition authorities.

“Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step into suspected anticompetitive practices,” the EC said in a statement. “The fact that the Commission carries out such inspections does not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behaviour nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself. The Commission respects the rights of defence, in particular the right of companies to be heard in antitrust proceedings. The Commission does not make public the names of the companies inspected at this stage.”

Deutsche expressed its shock in a statement to the press.

“Deutsche Telekom is very surprised by the initiation of further investigations into internet traffic,” it said. “Allegations made to date have turned out to be groundless, which is why corresponding investigations carried out by national regulatory authorities which deal with the issue in great detail have been abandoned. Deutsche Telekom faces intense competition on the global internet traffic market. The market is dominated by big US providers, and as such we are not the right target of these investigations.”

The operator added that it is cooperating closely with the authorities to clarify the matter.

Orange has also confirmed the raid, and said that a number of Orange premises are “currently subject to inspection by the European Commission and these inspections could take several days to complete.”

“Orange is extending its full cooperation to the European Commission and at this point the Group’s working practices have not been called into question in any way,” it said in a statement. “We are confident about the eventual outcome of this matter, given the French Competition Authority decision regarding Cogent which exonerated our Group. The company’s business activities are continuing as normal during the inspections.”

.News agency Reuters alleged that Telefonica was also targeted, but no others were.

The EC stated that there is no legal deadline to complete inquiries into anti-competitive conduct.

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