Guilty as Charged

The Dutch competition authority has smacked the wrists of all five mobile operators in the Netherlands, finding them guilty and fining them a total of €88 million (US$91.8 million) for colluding to fix the prices of handsets sold to contract customers. The operators were found to have agreed to cut payments to high street resellers, in breach of competition laws. The competition watchdog, Nederlandse Mededingingsautoriteit (NMa), also uncovered evidence of information exchange regarding prepaid tariffs and subsidies. The five operators have been fined as follows: The Vodafone operator and Ben were fined proportionately more compared to their market share, as they were found to have initiated the fixing arrangement. While KPN has a market-leading share of about 40 percent, Vodafone has 26 percent, and Ben just 14 percent. O2 Netherlands has about 12 percent of the market, and Dutchtone about 8 percent. KPN described the fine as “excessive,” but plans to take a charge in fiscal year 2002 to cover the cost. The carriers are currently awaiting the outcome of another ruling that might financially disadvantage them: The telecom regulator is ready to lay down the law regarding interconnection fees (see Legal Let-up For Dutch Carriers). — Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung
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