The European Commission’s July 2010 rejection of the complaint that France Telecom abused its dominant position should be overturned, Olivier Freget, a lawyer representing Paris-based Vivendi said in a hearing at the EU General Court today.
“This is a complete denial of justice,” Freget, who works at law firm Allen & Overy LLP in Paris, told a three-judge panel of the Luxembourg-based court, the second-highest in the EU. “As long as this decision exists, we are blocked or won’t be able anymore -- without major difficulties -- to raise the points in it, even by re-filing a complaint at national level in Paris.”
French telecommunications operators are trying to protect revenue in one of Europe’s most competitive markets for fixed- line services. Vivendi had 5 million fixed-line subscribers as of Sept. 30 and its SFR unit had 20.9 million mobile customers while France Telecom had 17.8 million fixed-line subscribers and 26.6 million mobile clients.
The commission in its decision said the March 2009 complaint had to be rejected because “there wasn’t a sufficient EU interest in pursuing the investigation of the alleged violations.”
Vivendi had argued among other points that France Telecom followed a strategy of artificially increasing its competitors’ costs through discriminatory practices.
The company’s complaint at the time “was extremely ambitious,” Bernard Mongin, a lawyer for the Brussels-based commission told the court today.
The EU antitrust regulator rejected the complaint for two reasons, said Mongin. One, was that it had a “very limited effect on the functioning of the market” and two, there was a “limited probability that any violation could have been established.”
Any ruling by the EU court can be appealed one last time.
The case is: T-432/10, Vivendi v. Commission.
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