EC launches antitrust probe into Swedish mobile market

James Pearce
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European officials carried out inspections at the Swedish offices of Telia, Tele2, Telenor Sverige and 3 Sweden over alleged anti-competitive behaviour

European Regulators have raided four Swedish telecoms operators over an alleged breach of EU antitrust regulations.

The European Commission and the Swedish Competition Authority carried out surprise inspections at the offices of Telia, Tele2, Telenor Sverige, and 3 in Sweden looking at suspected anti-competitive conduct.

Telia confirmed the inspection of its offices in Solna, saying it had answered questions on “coordinated behaviour in the Swedish mobile wholesale market.”

Telenor, Tele2 and CK Hutchison-owned 3 Sweden also all confirmed they were part of investigations into companies that accounted for around 96% of revenue in the Swedish mobile market in H1 2016.

The mobile operators declined to share details of the investigations, but each told Reuters they would cooperate with the authorities. 

Telenor said: “On 25 April 2017, the European Commission has initiated an  investigation on the premises of Telenor Sverige in  Stockholm regarding possible abuse of a collective dominant  market position and/or possible anti-competitive practices  between mobile network operators in Sweden.

“Telenor has strict internal rules and procedures on  compliance with laws and regulations. Telenor will co- operate with the Authority in carrying out the investigation  so that it can be conducted in an efficient manner. Besides  this, Telenor has currently no further comments on this  issue.”

The investigation comes just a few years after Telia, Sweden’s biggest mobile operator, was caught up in a corruption scandal in Uzbekistan that led to a $1.4 billion fine from US and Dutch authorities.

The Uzbekistan scandal dates back to what was then TeliaSonera’s acquisition of Uzbekistan operator Coscom – later rebranded as Ucell – in July 2007. TeliaSonera “did not conduct a sufficiently in-depth analysis into the identity of our local partner in Uzbekistan before we invested in the country or into how this partner came to own the assets that were later obtained by TeliaSonera”, said then CEO Lars Nyberg in his 2013 resignation statement. 

There is no evidence that this current investigation has any links to that scandal, but it is more bad news for Telia, who is currently in the process of attempting to dispose of its assets in central Asia.