SMS costs lead to big fines for firms

Greece’s telecoms watchdog yesterday slapped an unusually large 1-million-euro fine on each of the country’s three largest mobile phone operators after finding them guilty of fixing prices for text messaging. The Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (EETT) imposed the fine, which is one of the largest of its kind, after deciding that the three firms had been breaking competition rules for almost a year. «The identical price increases for short message services (SMS) decided and implemented by Cosmote, Tim Hellas and Vodafone since the spring of 2005 constitute price-fixing and are in breach of free competition rules,» EETT said in a statement. The commission’s verdict was reached by a majority decision after a lengthy and acrimonious session. The three companies did not comment on the watchdog’s decision, saying they wanted to study the ruling in full. The firms have the right to appeal EETT’s decision. At almost the same time last April, the telecoms companies all increased the price of sending an SMS message by 7 percent (to 0.09 euro) for contract customers. This has raised questions about the role of the Competition Commission (CC), to which the mobile phone companies were initially referred to. The commission passed the matter onto the EETT but doubts have been raised about how effective the CC is at tackling market irregularities, such as price fixing and cartels.