Deutsche Telekom loses price-fixing appeal

Deutsche Telekom has lost a European Court appeal against a fine EU regulators imposed in 2003. The fine was imposed because the German incumbent had fixed prices that damaged Internet and phone rivals over a period of five years, an Associated Press report said.

The Associated Press report said the Luxembourg-based Court of First Instance says Deutsche Telekom abused its near-monopoly position as the owner of most German phone and Internet infrastructure by charging its competitors prices that were higher than the retail prices paid by its own customers.

The ruling upholds the European Commission's fine of €12.6 million (US$14.7 million) on the company, the Associated Press report said. The Court said Deutsche Telekom could not claim that it could be excused from EU antitrust action on the grounds that German regulators had approved its prices at an earlier stage.

The European Union's anti-monopoly regulators said the court judgment set a precedent for similar cases, such as Spain's Telefonica's pending appeal against a €151 million (US$206 million) fine it received last year for setting wholesale Internet prices that were too high to allow rivals to turn a profit.

Former state-owned telecoms monopolies are still the biggest players in European countries. The European Commission blames governments for not doing enough to open up the market which it says would lower prices, offer better services and get more people online.