A complaint was filed against Belgacom in 2002 by Codenet, Colt Telecom, Versatel and Worldcom for alleged abuse of dominance in relation to its fixed telephony business. The alleged abuse consisted of a margin squeeze and loyalty-enhancing rebates through its ‘Benefit Excellence’ offer. The complaint was considered admissible and a statement of objections was sent to Belgacom in March 2006.
The Competition Prosecutors nevertheless decided to close the case on the basis of a decision on priorities and available resources. Firstly, they held that, in order to be in line with the Competition Council’s methodology in establishing the existence of a margin squeeze and loyalty-enhancing rebates, as applied in its Proximus decision of May 2009 (Belgian competition law report 2009/Q2), the investigation would need to be more thorough, in particular in relation to Belgacom’s cost structure. Secondly, the Competition Prosecutors ruled that they did not consider the case a priority anymore given the fact that the actions took place before 2005, and consequently they are of limited interest to the consumer and of limited economic importance. Finally, it was stated that further preparation of the report for the Council, as would be necessary to decide on the case and establish an infringement to the requisite legal standard, would require further significant resources in terms of personnel and costs.
This is the first time that the Competition Prosecutors have closed a case on the basis of an assessment of enforcement priorities and available resources. The possibility of such an outcome was introduced to the Belgian Competition Act in May 2009 (Belgian competition law report 2009/Q2).