Vodafone Netherland sues KPN for €115 million over infrastructure access delays

Vodafone Netherlands has started legal action in Holland alleging anti-competitive tactics were used by the Dutch incumbent telco KPN.

Vodafone Netherlands’ writ says KPN delayed the nationwide introduction of Vodafone Thuis, its TV, fixed-line broadband and fixed-line telephone offering, by repeatedly failing to meet its obligation to deliver access to its national infrastructure.

Former state monopoly KPN owns and operates the Netherlands’ only nationwide telephone network. Its copper lines connect homes and businesses across the country and it has the country’s largest fibre-optic network. Without this national infrastructure other telcos need to use KPN’s network. Delays in enabling Vodafone Netherlands to connect to the infrastructure stopped it competing effectively with KPN (and cable providers) in the Dutch telecoms market until 2014.

While KPN failed to deliver the agreed services to Vodafone Netherlands, it managed to launch a comparable ‘all-in-one’ package under its own brand and that of its subsidiary, Telfort. This, says Vodafone, stopped it gaining a significant market share as over 100,000 households per quarter bought ‘all-in-one’ packages. Vodafone says KPN’s refusal to supply it qualifies as abuse of a dominant market position and caused it an estimated €115 million loss.

“Markets cannot function without effective competition and Vodafone relies on the incumbent operator as a supplier to provide Dutch consumers with a competitive choice,” said Vodafone Netherlands CEO Rob Shuter, “KPN has repeatedly failed to deliver on its commitments and has instead seriously abused its dominant position.”

This, said Shuter, is bad for consumers, bad for the Dutch telecoms markets and bad for competition. “We hope this legal action will rectify the harm caused by KPN’s actions and alter its future behaviour,” said Shuter.

Meanwhile the Vodafone Group says incumbent operators in other European markets are abusing their dominant position. In December 2015 Vodafone Ireland, SKY, BT and Magnet entered into a formal dispute with Eir (formerly Eircom) over its repair times on the broadband and fixed-line telephone network. In October 2015, Spain’s national competition authority fined Telefonica €5 million for failing to comply with regulations governing the renting of broadband connections to its competitors for more than four years.

Vodafone Netherlands has lodged its claim with the court of justice in The Hague and asks initially for the court to confirm the unlawful behaviour of KPN.

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