European Union anti-trust officials have launched surprise investigations at the offices of telecoms company's in several EU countries. The regulators suspect them of abusing their dominant positions in Internet markets.
The offices of several European telecommunications firms had been searched on the suspicion that the companies had conspired to manipulate prices for Internet services, and abusing their dominant market positions, the EU Commission announced Thursday.
The EU's executive arm didn't give the names of the suspected companies. In a statement, it said, however, that free competition was crucial for the functioning of the Internet and for guaranteeing European customers fast and affordable access to web services, irrespective of the location of the provider.
In the statement, the commission also wrote the searches were just a first step in the investigation and said nothing about whether or not the companies were guilty.
According to a report on the website of the French daily newspaper "Le Figaro," the regulators had inspected the offices of French telecoms firm Orange, as well as Germany's Deutsche Telekom and Telefonica of Spain.
Deutsche Telekom confirmed the inspection on Thursday, claiming it was a reaudit of the firm's Internet business by EU regulators.
Underscoring that previous allegations had turned out to be unfounded, a Deutsche Telekom spokesperson told Reuters news agency that the company was astonished by the new investigation of its Internet activities.
EU regulators have won a reputation for vigorously persecuting violations of anti-trust rules in the 28-nation bloc, stressing that anti-competitive behavior restricts market access and affects prices for consumers.
uhe/rc (dpa, AFP, Reuters)