Telenor could face regulatory action after being hit with a statement of objections from the EFTA Surveillance Authority (ESA), which claims the operator “may have abused its dominant position in Norway”.
In an announcement, the authority, which ensures Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein adhere to rules set out in the European Economic Area (EEA) Agreement, said Telenor obstructed competitors in two markets involving the provision of mobile services to Norwegian users, and today issued a statement of objections setting out its preliminary conclusions.
The statement of objections issued relates to Telenor’s conduct in three segments; wholesale mobile access and origination services, the market for broadband services to residential customers, and in mobile communications services to business customers.
Regarding the latter, the authority said it was concerned that clauses included in Telenor’s contracts “have impeded competition by making it very difficult for its customers to switch providers”, as well as making it overly expensive for competitors to take new customers from Telenor.
ESA added that clauses implemented by the operator tie subscribers into the company for two years, and impose high penalty fees for premature termination, with the penalty exceeding any savings the customer may get on such a subscription. A look into lock-in clauses also related to Telenor’s contracts with government customers.
These particular objections relates to the company’s activity from January 2008 to the present.
On another point, the authority said Telenor’s pricing of access and origination services at the wholesale level “likely impeded competing offers in the market for mobile broadband to residential customers”. These points relate to the company’s behaviour between 2008 and 2012.
“Companies that are dominant players in a market have a special responsibility to ensure that their business practises do not impede competition,” said Frank Buchel, member of college – the authority’s decision making body – with special responsibility for competition matters. “Where competition is impeded, consumers ultimately suffer from higher prices, lower quality and diminished choice and innovation and products and services.”
ESA added if the preliminary conclusions are confirmed, it may “adopt a decision requiring Telenor to cease the conduct in question”, and it may impose a fine.
Telenor has until 11 April to respond to the claims.