The German operator will have to pay around €57 million in fines after it failed to get the European Commission (EC)’s ruling overturned
For around seven years now, Germany’s Deutsche Telekom has been fighting a ruling made by the EC which saw them fined for anticompetitive practises in Slovakia.
Now, the Court of Justice of the European Union has thrown out the operator’s latest appeal, thus the fines previously issued “remain unchanged”.
The dispute first arose in 2014, when the EC fined Deutsche Telekom and Slovak Telekom for leveraging their dominant market position to drive up wholesale prices in a five-year period from 2005 to 2010. A joint fine or €38.8 million was issued, with a separate €31 million fine for Deutsche Telekom specifically.
Deutsche Telekom acquired Slovak Telekom in 2015, purchasing the 49% equity that it did not already own. By 2018, a legal appeal had seen the initial joint penalty reduced to €38 million, while Deutsche Telekom’s own fine was lowered to €19 million.
But today, with the European courts latest ruling, there may be no more room for appeal for the German operator over last decade’s ruling.
Such a fine is a mere pittance to Deutsche Telekom, however, who announced last month that hteir annual revenue had reached a record high of over €100 billion. Nonetheless, the ruling will be annoying for Deutsche Telekom, who are also being fined for similar – but ultimately distinct – anticompetitive practises by Slovakia’s regulator.
Deutsche Telekom was first fined around €17.5 million by the Slovakian regulator back in 2009 for using below-cost pricing to pressure competitors. With the subsequent additional fine from the EC, Deutsche Telekom felt that it was being unfairly fined by two separate bodies for the same violation. However, the European court ultimately ruled last month that the two fines were for two separate telecoms services and thus rules infringements.
“It appears that the proceedings conducted by the Commission and by the Slovak competition authority against Slovak Telekom had as their subject alleged abuses of a dominant position on the part of Slovak Telekom on separate product markets,” said the judges in their ruling.