Three major European telcos hit by EU antitrust raids
The offices of three of Europe’s largest operators, Deutsche Telekom, Orange and Telefónica, were raided by EU officials this week investigating whether they are limiting access to data heavy services such as YouTube and Skype.
Unannounced inspections are said to be a preliminary step in an antitrust investigation, as concerns grow over whether operators are blocking services by content providers in an anticompetitive way. European Commission (EC) officials carried out the inspections in conjunction with relevant national competition authorities.
According to an estimate from the EC, approximately 100 million people in Europe have experienced restrictions on their internet usage.
Although there has been no suggestion that the raids will lead to financial penalties, if the companies are found to breach EU antitrust rules, they could face fines of up to 10% of their global turnover.
A statement from the EC highlighted how any distortion at a wholesale level could seriously affect the functioning of the internet: “Internet players interconnect with each other through a combination of wholesale services to cover all possible Internet destinations. Internet connectivity allows market players (e.g. content providers) to connect to the Internet so as to be able to provide their services or products at the retail level. This service is crucial for the functioning of the internet and for end users' ability to reach Internet content with the necessary quality of service, irrespective of the location of the provider.”
Just last month, the EC announced it was looking to introduce net-neutrality laws later this year to remove internet restrictions for value add companies such as Skype and Google. Under the proposed laws, which are part of a larger digital agenda that Kroes is aiming to implement, ISPs could offer faster speeds, but would not be able to block services from their competitors.