Abertis Telecom fined for monopoly

Iñaki Ferreras

Spain's main TV transmission company, Abertis Telecom, has been fined €22.6 million by the National Competition Commission (CNC) because it dominates this market and closes the door to competitors.

The resolution also establishes that Abertis Telecom must give its broadcast clients the right to end their contracts with it when they want to do so.

The Commission considers the telco has damaged the interests of Sogecable, Mediaset's Telecinco, Grupo Planeta's Antena 3, Grupo Vocento's Net TV and Unidad Editorial's Veo TV.

Abertis Telecom enjoys a dominant position in the terrestrial signal TV market, both in analogue and digital and from a national point of view, said the Commission.

The main abuse by Abertis Telecom, according to CNC, has been the company demanding "without any objective justification", great sums of money from clients. These came in the shape of fining clients in the case of the contracts ceased before deadline in 2006 and also for establishing a too-large duration of contracts with Veo in 2006 and with Sogecable, Telecinco and Net TV in 2008. That had the goal to prevent other competitors from entering the market of signal distribution.

Abertis Telecom’s other abuse was to offer within the negotiation of those contracts signed in 2006 with the broadcasters, and also "without any objective justification”, discounts for contracting together the broadcasting in all Spanish regions. That would prevent competitors from entering this market in some of these regions, said the Commission.

When fining Abertis Telecom, the Commission said it had considered relevant the fact the anti-competitive practises had been taken place in a liberalized market.

Abertis Telecom said it would formally object to the findings because it considers the report an "error in all the possible ways". Abertis' management also assured they had not broken any competitiveness principles.

"Our clients the broadcasters are the ones to establish the conditions," said Abertis Telecom.

As for the contracts, the operator declared they were agreed by both sides. "It's the client who establishes the duration of the contracts," an Abertis' source declared.