On December 6 2011 the Competition Authority raided the premises of mobile operators KPN, Vodafone and T-Mobile on suspicions of collusion in regard to "mobile telecommunications offerings on the Dutch consumer market" and "the division of independent sales channels". The authority had been tipped off by the press and a politician about the alleged collusion and the press were present when the authority conducted the dawn raids. Immediately after the dawn raids, Parliament debated the issue with the minister of economic affairs. Meanwhile, the authority commented that infringement still needs to be proven.
The dawn raid was initiated by statements of a former business unit director of one of the mobile operators and a current member of the board of another mobile operator. Apart from confirming the dawn raid in a press release, member of the authority board Henk Don commented that "the authority has had its eye on the telecom sector for some time already".
In 2002 the authority imposed fines initially totalling €88 million for alleged coordinated behaviour between the mobile operators following a meeting in which commercially sensitive information was exchanged regarding reductions in dealer bonuses for sales of pre and post-paid mobile telephone subscriptions.
On appeal, the Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal sought guidance from the European Court of Justice (ECJ) on the interpretation of the concept of concerted practices. After the preliminary ruling by the ECJ in the T-Mobile case,(1) the tribunal ordered the authority to reassess the evidence adduced by the mobile operators to rebut the presumption of a causal link between the meeting and the subsequent parallel behaviour.
Although the authority was not convinced by the operators' arguments, it reduced the fines imposed on KPN, Vodafone and T-Mobile to take account of the tribunal's view that the infringement was not as grave as the authority considered, and the fact that the reasonable time limits for decision making and judicial review had been exceeded.
For further information on this topic please contact Jolling De Pree or Erik H Pijnacker Hordijk at De Brauw Blackstone Westbroek by telephone (+31 70 328 53 28), fax (+31 70 328 53 25) or email ([email protected] or [email protected]).
(1) See "Mobile operators' appeal referred to European Court of Justice".