Paris court OKs $740m fine for French mobile carriers

The Paris Court of Appeal upheld record fines of 534 million euros ($704 million) against France's three biggest mobile operators for conspiring to undermine competition, an Associated Press report said.

The appeal court upheld a December 2005 ruling by France's Competition Council that monthly exchanges of sales data among France Telecom, Bouygues, and Vivendi SA's SFR unit between 1997 and 2003 had broken antitrust laws, the report said.

The Associated Press report further said the competition watchdog imposed its highest ever fines against the three operators in a 90-page report that cited, among other evidence, handwritten notes explicitly mentioning an 'agreement' among the three market leaders.

Reacting to the verdict, SFR said it 'regretted that its arguments have not been heard.' SFR argued unsuccessfully that the information-sharing had not broken antitrust rules because it concerned only past sales and not future projections, the report said.

France's biggest consumer organization, UFC-Que Choisir, welcomed the appeal verdict but said that under current French laws, the outcome would benefit only the 12,500 consumers on whose behalf it had filed its original complaint in 2002, the report further said.