ANRT based the fine on an investigation into Maroc Telecom’s anti-competitive practices.
Rabat – The National Agency for Telecommunications Regulation (ANRT) has fined Morocco’s leading telecommunication company, Maroc Telecom (IAM), MAD 3.3 billion (around €312 million) for “unfair competition.”
IAM must pay the total amount of the financial penalty to Morocco’s General Treasury, announced ANRT in a press release issued on Monday, February 3.
The regulation agency submitted the decision on January 17, after years of investigation following a complaint submitted by IAM’s competitor Inwi in December 2016.
The complaint concerned anti-competitive practices in “the implementation of local-loop unbundling,” specifies ANRT’s statement.
Local-loop unbundling is a regulatory process that allows multiple telecommunications operators to use connections from the telephone exchange to the customer’s home.
“The investigation has been underway since May 2017. The two parties, IAM and Wana (former name of Inwi), were able to comment, in particular on the report drawn up by the investigation services,” said the agency.
“After an in-depth examination of the various elements of the file, ANRT has concluded that, since 2013, IAM participated in cumulative conduct that had the effect of preventing and delaying competitors’ access to local-loop unbundling and the landline [telephones] market,” concludes the press release.
IAM abused its “dominant position”
The agency qualified IAM’s behaviors, including the “use of excessively low prices” as an “abuse of a dominant position.”
Law No. 104-12, regarding the freedom of prices and competition, prohibits the abuse of a dominant position.
The complaints that led ANRT to classify IAM’s behavior as abusive include delays in carrying out the preliminary tests for unbundling, delays in making the co-location sites for the benefit of Inwi available, and limitation of the conditions of exploitation of the sites made available to Inwi.
Other complaints include IAM’s non-compliance with regulatory deadlines and terms of access to IAM’s sites, imposing unreasonable operational requirements on Inwi, unreasonable billing of study costs, delays, and lack of communication of vital information to Inwi.
ANRT’s legal texts provide for a fine corresponding to 10% of turnover against companies convicted of anti-competitive practices.
Besides the financial penalty, the telecommunications regulator has decided to impose the implementation of several measures by IAM.
The majority of the measures concern the acceleration of the local-loop unbundling process. Any delay would add a “daily penalty” reaching up to MAD 4 million (about €376,500).
The sanction of an unprecedented scale aims to “remedy the behavior observed and to allow the development of competition in the sector of landline and broadband.” The end goal is to improve the quality of services provided to consumers and businesses, argues ANRT.
IAM and Inwi are also facing each other in court. Inwi, the third-largest telecommunications company in Morocco, seeks compensation from IAM, at Rabat’s commercial court, for the same reasons presented by ANRT.
The compensation Inwi has claimed amounts to MAD 5.7 billion (about €536 million). The commercial court of Morocco’s capital is set to announce its decision on February 24.
Maroc Telecom’s reaction
In response to the sanction, IAM issued a press release that did not exclude the possibility of an appeal.
“Maroc Telecom takes note of the decision of the Management Committee of the [ANRT] relating to anti-competitive practices on the landline market and fixed broadband internet access,” says the document.
“Maroc Telecom reserves the right to exercise any action provided by the law,” it concludes.