Telcos face EU competition probe

The European Union's Competition Commissioner wants to investigate the European telecommunications business in an antitrust probe early next year. Neelie Kroes said that she wants to investigate telcos once her energy and banking probes are finished.

The Commissioner was speaking at a Paris conference where she said she wanted to look at anti-competitive behaviour in the telecoms industry in Europe. The probe would not be possible until early next year after the completion of banking and energy investigations.

The EU published a report in February which said that there is no effective competition for telecoms services in most European countries. Though the EU is pushing for former monopolies to do more to open up markets to competition, the findings of that report suggests that the policy has not been successful.

Meanwhile the European Commission is expected to announce that it will reduce the number of areas of the telecoms business that it will regulate from 18 to 11. The move will lift regulation for almost all retail phone calls.

The Commission will continue to keep control of the wholesale telecoms market, according to reports of a new telecoms regulation plan to be unveiled this week. The Commission is said to be still concerned that former monopoly operators are not sharing their networks openly enough through wholesale agreements and prices.

The Commission will note that the market for international calls is competitive, but that that does not extend to domestic fixed line services. It is also expected to extend its regulation to mobile phone services for the first time, particularly over the cost of text messages.