The Basque Country’s Tribunal Superior de Justicia del País Vasco (TSJPV) has reportedly ratified a ruling made by a Paris court more than three years ago, in which alternative telco Euskaltel was ordered to pay Orange Espana EUR222 million (USD291 million) in damages, according to Cinco Dias. Euskaltel is expected to appeal the ruling.
The original fine was imposed following a long-running dispute between the two operators over the 460,000 customers of the Euskaltel Movil joint venture following the 1997 agreement to brand all the French-backed firm’s mobile services under that moniker in the Basque region. As noted in TeleGeography’s GlobalComms Database, Orange took a stake in Euskaltel in return and the service was launched in January 1998. As the agreement approached expiry in early 2007 the pair entered talks to extend it and collaborate on the launch of 3G services, but in September 2006 Euskaltel instead opted to sign a deal with Vodafone Spain allowing it to operate as a mobile virtual network operator (MVNO) on a nationwide basis over the Vodafone network from January 2007. Euskaltel Movil swiftly demanded the transfer of all customers to its own operations at that date, but Orange claimed it had rightful ownership of the subscriber base and wanted them transferred to its own service, which it had recently launched in the Basque region. Subsequently, in November 2006 Spain’s Comision del Mercado de las Telecomunicacinoes (CMT) ruled that Euskaltel Movil customers could choose to transfer their services to either of the company’s co-owners, with it also decided that the cellco’s clients would automatically become Orange customers unless they applied to have their mobile number ported to Euskaltel’s Vodafone-based service.