Norwegian telecoms group Telenor is said to be facing antitrust proceedings opened by the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) amid claims that the company had infringed competition rules under the European Economic Area (EEA) agreement. EFTA’s Surveillance Authority has announced that it is investigating whether prices charged by Telenor and its Norwegian subsidiary for ‘retail mobile data services and bundles of retail mobile telecommunications services’ had resulted in an illegal margin squeeze on its competitors. Further, the Authority has said it plans to examine whether clauses in Telenor’s retail agreements with customers related to mobile services ‘give rise to market foreclosure concerns’.
Regarding the background to the case, it was revealed that the Surveillance Authority had conducted an unannounced inspection at the premises of Telenor Norge and its parent company Telenor in December 2012. The inspection was continued and finalised at the Authority’s premises in Brussels in March 2013 due, it said, to the significant amount of electronic data it had collected. On the back of a preliminary review of the data collected, the Authority said it had decided there was sufficient information to require an in-depth investigation in order to determine whether or not there had been an infringement of the EEA competition rules.
Commenting on the matter, Per Andreas Bjorgan, director of the Authority’s Competition & State Aid Directorate, stated: ‘The decision to open proceedings does not signify that the Authority has made a finding of infringement or prejudge in any way the outcome of the investigation; it only means that the Authority will proceed with an in-depth investigation.’ Meanwhile, Telenor has denied any wrongdoing, with Reuters citing company spokesperson Torild Ubribarri as saying: ‘We believe we have done nothing wrong in terms of competition regulation … The wording of their statement is quite general. We still don’t have precise information about what this is about.’