EU looks into possible collusion by telecoms firms | Business| Economy and finance news from a German perspective | DW | 14.03.2012
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EU looks into possible collusion by telecoms firms

The European Union's anti-trust chiefs have asked five telecoms giants to provide detailed info about meetings they have been having since 2010.

Anti-trust authorities in the European Union announced on Wednesday they'd asked five European telecommunications giants to answer concerns about possible collusion in the mobile communication industry.

Antoine Colobani, a spokesman for the EU's Competition Commissioner, Joaquin Almunia, told AFP news agency that information is needed to establish whether periodic meetings between France Telecom, Deutsche Telekom, Telecom Italia, Telefonica and Vodafone were also about market-distorting collusion arrangements.

"No formal investigation has been launched right now," Colobani added, saying that it was all about information gathering at this preliminary stage. He noted that the industry association for mobile communications GSMA has also been requested to provide details on the content of the meetings in question.

There's initial suspicion that the get-togethers between the heads of the five companies may also have served to forge a joint strategy as to how to keep rivals Google and Apple at bay, by agreeing on a standardized advertizing platform for smartphones and standardized payment services via mobile phones.

Unfounded suspicion?

It's not clear yet whether the European Commission will launch a proper probe, but the companies under scrutiny have already said they don't understand the anti-trust officials' sudden interest in the joint meetings.

They claimed the minutes of each meeting had been sent to the responsible EU authorities right away. On each occasion, lawyers had been present to watch over the talks, which had been anything but secret.

Brussels' move comes amid already rather frosty relations between the European commission and the telecoms companies on the continent. At the recent Mobile World Congress in Spain, Vodafone chief Vittorio Colao and the European Commissioner for Digital Agenda, Neelie Kroes, locked horns over mobile phone connection prices.

Colao accused Brussels of overregulation following the issuing of an EU regulation on lowering prices. Kroes for her part said the move was justified to pave the way for more competition in the interests of customers.

hg / mll (Reuters, AFP)