EC ends inquiries into euro telecomms pricing

Following price reductions of up to 80 per cent over the last 14 months, the European Commission has decided to close investigations into abusive fees charged by telecomms operators for linking mobile to fixed telephony networks and vice versa, the Commission announced on Tuesday.

But the Commission also warned that it will now focus on the behavior of operators, especially regarding roaming agreements between mobile operators.

Investigations of pricing practices by Deutsche Telekom and Telekom Austria would, however, continue until they reduce their fees as promised, the Commission announced.

The Brussels antitrust authority has also suspended its investigations against mobile operators in Germany and Italy, following the launch of investigations by national authorities for collusive behavior.

In February 1998 the Commission opened an initial inquiry involving 45 companies, but in July 1998 it narrowed the probes to 14 telecomms operators in Austria, Belgium, the UK, Germany, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain.

The investigations were prompted by concerns over the high cost of mobile telephony in the EU as measured against a so-called best practice level. This is defined as the rate in the three lowest-cost member states adjusted to account for changes to current interconnection charges that will take place as a result of rulings by national regulatory authorities.

The Commission's investigations fell into three different categories. The Commission found evidence of abusive interconnection rates charged by incumbent telecomms operators to terminate calls between mobile and fixed networks in Germany, Spain, the Netherlands and Italy. Incumbents in Belgium, Ireland, the UK, Austria, Spain, the Netherlands, Italy and Germany had also imposed high fees for connecting calls from their fixed lines to mobile networks. Finally, two mobile companies in Italy and three in Germany were under investigation for abusive fees for terminating calls in their networkThe Commission closed all these cases after a study showed that net revenues for the various types of calls had fallen from between 31 per cent in Belgium to 80 per cent in Italy.

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