Dutch Antitrust Investigators Raid T-Mobile, Vodafone, KPN

I guess this is something many Americans hope would happen in the United States: the Dutch competition watchdog has raided offices of T-Mobile, Vodafone and KPN, the three Dutch carriers. The three carriers are accused of illegal price fixing, something they’ve already been found guilty of about ten years ago.

This morning, the Nederlandse Mededingingsautoriteit (the Dutch Competition Authority) simultaneously raided the offices of T-Mobile, Vodafone and KPN, the three carriers in The Netherlands. They are being accused of price fixing, which is illegal in The Netherlands. More specifically, prices for consumer mobile phone and data plans are supposedly being fixed.

The three carriers came under scrutiny earlier this year, when they announced the exact same set of price hikes almost simultaneously (which prompted our Lower House to turn unconditional net neutrality into law). Ten years ago, T-Mobile, Vodafone, and KPN were also slapped with fines of millions of euros for fixing subsidies given to retailers for selling phones.

The ball really got rolling this time around because member of parliament for the PVV, Jhim van Bemmel, has been investigating this issue closely for over six months. Recently he managed to get into contact with several whistleblowers – former executives from the three carriers. They claim to have seen the price fixing agreements.

If they are found guilty – and it’s hard to believe they won’t, it’s almost a public secret that they are – they can be fined up to millions of euros. That’s not all though – parliament is investigating if the three carriers can be excluded from future spectrum auctions. This is an extremely big deal, since other than the 4G spectrum, the current 3G and GSM spectrums are being re-auctioned over the coming years. This would mean that if they are found guilty, they could essentially be out of business. It probably won’t come to that, but it’s clear they’re facing some very hefty consequences.

I’m wondering – what’s the situation like in your country? Is there healthy competition, or is it pretty obvious your carriers are also fixing prices to reduce competition?


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