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Italian Authority Will Continue Probe Of Abuse of Dominance in Telecom Sector

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

By Eric J. Lyman  

April 29 — Italian antitrust officials on April 28 indicated that they intend to continue an investigation into alleged anticompetitive behavior from former state telephone monopoly Telecom Italia Mobile SpA and rival Wind SpA, even though the company that sparked the probe, Bip Mobile, has ceased operations.

Bip Mobile was a “virtual” mobile phone company—renting time on other company’s infrastructure and packaging and reselling it to clients. The company charged that Telecom Italian Mobile and Wind blocked its entry into the market by charging unfairly high rates for access to their infrastructure.

The original complaint also named Vodafone Group Plc’s subsidiary Vodafone-Italia SpA, but the company has since been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Bip Mobile, the last remaining “virtual” phone operator in Italy, which filed its complaints in 2012, went out of business in December.

Antitrust officials initially indicated that they might close their investigation because the companies could not be required to reform their policies toward Bip Mobile.

However, on April 28, officials in the Autorita Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato said that the probe would remain open because they could rule Telecom Italian Mobile and Wind should pay cash damages to Bip Mobile and because, if they decide the companies in question acted unfairly, the agency could change the rules and open the market for new companies in the future.

Telecom Italian Mobile and Wind deny wrongdoing in the case.

Telecom Italian Mobile is Italy’s largest mobile phone operators, followed by Vodafone Italia, and then Wind.

To contact the reporter on this story: Eric J. Lyman in Rome at correspondents@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sheldon B. Richman at srichman@bna.com

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