Competition in Belgian Telephony Market Ineffective, Says EU

The European Commission took Belgium's national telecommunications regulator to task on Thursday for failing to enforce effective competition in the market for fixed phone lines.

"The European Commission invites BIPT to ensure that wholesale remedies are properly enforced and asks for a new market analysis to be carried out within one year," the Commission said in a statement.

It also ordered Belgium's regulator, L'Institut Belge des Services Postaux et des Télécommunications (BIPT), to change the way it monitors the prices set by Belgacom, the incumbent operator formerly owned by the state.

The wholesale line rental obligation, which was imposed on Belgacom by BIPT in 2006 and which allows alternative operators to use Belgacom's networks, has not been implemented so far, the Commission said.

It also noted that the carrier selection obligation, which allows consumers in Belgium to choose their preferred provider to supply their telecoms services, was imposed as early as 2000 and should have led, together with Belgium's high broadband penetration, to effective competition in the fixed telephony market. However, the way it was imposed has been ineffective, Europe's top telecommunications regulator said.

"Although the Belgian retail calls markets have all the conditions to be competitive, leading to choice and affordable prices for Belgian consumers, the overall retail prices for fixed telephony in Belgium are one of the highest in the EU. This is simply not acceptable for Belgian consumers," said Viviane Reding, the commissioner in charge of telecoms.

The Commission notified the Belgian regulator of its complaints in a letter.

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