Saturday, 24 June 2017

EC raids Swedish telcos in antitrust probe

By Nick Wood, Total Telecom
Wednesday 26 April 17

Regulator suspects mobile operators engaged in anti-competitive behaviour.

European Commission officials have raided the offices of Sweden's mobile operators, which are suspected of engaging in anti-competitive behaviour. All four players – incumbent Telia, 3, Tele2, and Telenor – confirmed that the authorities had dropped in unannounced and asked questions regarding the possible abuse of their collective dominant market position…

European Commission officials have raided the offices of Sweden's mobile operators, which are suspected of engaging in anti-competitive behaviour.

All four players – incumbent Telia, 3, Tele2, and Telenor – confirmed that the authorities had dropped in unannounced and asked questions regarding the possible abuse of their collective dominant market position.

Each referred to their strict internal rules regarding regulatory compliance, and pledged to cooperate with the investigation. Further details as to the exact nature of the alleged anti-competitive behaviour were not disclosed.

The Commission officials were accompanied by their counterparts from the Swedish Competition Authority (Konkurrensverket).

"Unannounced inspections are a preliminary step in investigating suspected anti-competitive practices," the Commission said, in a statement on Tuesday. "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."

Nonetheless, the raids are troubling, particularly for Telia and Telenor, which have both been under the spotlight for the wrong reasons recently.

Telia is still putting its Uzbekistan woes behind it. The telco was investigated over bribery allegations stemming from its entry into the country in 2007. In September, U.S. and Dutch authorities asked Telia to pay $1.4 billion (€1.25 billion) to settle the investigation.

Meanwhile, Telenor was heavily criticised after Veon – the telco formerly known as Vimpelcom, in which Telenor holds a sizeable stake – also became the subject of an investigation into its conduct in Uzbekistan.

In both cases, Telia and Telenor made sweeping management changes and pledged to strengthen internal checks and balances to guard against malpractice.

This week's EU raids will raise questions about whether the two have truly turned a corner.

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