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NMa confirms: Dutch mobile operators engaged in cartel activities in 2001

Following a ruling of the Dutch Trade and Industry Appeals Tribunal (CBb), the Netherlands Competition Authority (NMa) today confirmed that the three biggest mobile operators in the Netherlands, KPN, Vodafone and T-Mobile, engaged in cartel activities in 2001. ‘In this matter, we are supported by the European Court of Justice (ECJ), which has made it clear that mobile operators are never allowed to exchange information about the dealer remuneration levels, not even once,’ Chris Fonteijn, Chairman of the Board of the NMa, explains. The fines for the illegal cartel activities are now as follows: KPN: EUR 7,933,000, T-Mobile: EUR 4,599,000 and Vodafone: EUR 3,717,000.

The new fining decisions are the result of an August 2010 ruling by the CBb. The CBb had asked the ECJ to address the question of whether meetings, held between five mobile operators about reducing the dealer remunerations, in themselves can be considered an anti-competitive activity. The CBb has deduced from the ECJ’s answer that they indeed can be. However, the mobile operators were given the opportunity to prove their assertion that there was no connection between the cartel activities and their behavior afterwards. The mobile operators in question failed to do so. In the new fining decisions, the NMa took into account the fact that the CBb did not feel as strongly about the violation as the NMa did, and that the reasonable time limits with regard to decision-making and judicial review hadbeen exceeded. This has resulted in lower fines than the original fines that were imposed by the NMa in late-2002. Objections and appeals can be filed against these new fining decisions.