Spain’s antitrust authority has reportedly fined the country’s three largest mobile network operators a total of EUR120 million (USD159 million) for charging too much for SMS messages. The Comision Nacional de la Competencia (CNC) levied the penalty after ruling that Movistar, Vodafone Spain and Orange Espana abused their dominant position in the wholesale markets for access and origination and for termination of short messages in their respective networks. With all three operators cited as having ‘a monopoly position in SMS and MMS termination services in their respective networks’, the CNC noted that the market for SMS termination services was unregulated between 2000 and 2009 (the period investigated by the watchdog). As such, the CNC claims, the trio were freely able to price the termination of SMS at very high levels, which in turn allowed them to pass these costs to consumers in the shape of higher retail prices for SMS and MMS services.
No new regulatory measures are to be introduced however, with the CNC noting that it did not consider such action appropriate as there was only evidence of overpricing in the period to 2009 and not more recently. Further, it argued that telecoms regulator the Comision del Mercado de las Telecomunicacinoes (CMT) ‘is better positioned to design the ex-ante regulation of these markets’.
As per the antitrust agency’s ruling, Movistar faces the largest fine – EUR46.490 million – while Vodafone Spain and Orange Espana will be required to pay EUR43.525 million and EUR29.950 million respectively. All three operators are expected to appeal the ruling.