On 19 April 2016, Luxembourg-based telecom group Altice was fined a total of €15 million by the French Competition Authority ("FCA") for failing to comply with certain commitments relating to the acquisition by its subsidiary, Numericable, of rival SFR.
On 30 October 2014, the FCA granted its approval for Altice to take sole control of mobile-telephone operator SFR, subject to certain commitments. The transaction, as notified, would have resulted in Altice having high market shares in mobile telephony in two French overseas territories in the Indian Ocean: 66% in La Réunion and 90% in Mayotte. In order to address this, Altice committed to divesting Outremer Télécom, a mobile telephony business which Altice operated in La Réunion and Mayotte. Further, Altice agreed not to interfere with the management of Outremer Télécom's business, pending its divestment.
However, the FCA discovered that Altice failed to respect its commitments as it interfered in the business to be divested by raising Outremer Télécom's tariffs between 17% and 60%. These tariff increases put the competitiveness of Outremer Télécom at risk and allowed customers to terminate their contracts without having to pay extra charges.
The commitment breach was aggravated as Altice's decision to increase tariffs was never communicated to the FCA. Further, the tariff increases were implemented by Altice even though it made a prior commitment to appoint an independent manager to run the divested business.
The FCA considered the tariff increases to be of an "unprecedented form and extent", as they were imposed not only on new customers, but also on existing customers, which, according to the FCA, is a very rare business practice from a commercial perspective.
Altice stated that it reserved its right to appeal against the decision of the FCA.
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