Bulgaria’s competition watchdog said on May 14 that it has fined telecom operator Vivacom for unfair trade practices, imposing one of the heftiest fines ever at 3.75 million leva, or about 1.92 million euro.
The Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) levelled the fine after a repeat investigation of a complaint from 2011, lodged by smaller operator Eastern Telecommunications Company (ETCC).
ETCC claimed that Bulgarian Telecommunications Company – the former state fixed-line monopoly now operates under the Vivacom brand and is one of Bulgaria’s three largest carriers, offering mobile, fixed-line and internet access services – breached competition rules in unilaterally scrapping the interconnection contract with ETCC.
Vivacom claimed at the time that ETCC intentionally misrepresented international calls as domestic ones in order to pay lower call termination fees.
Initially, the regulator ruled Vivacom did not breach the law, but ETCC appealed the decision at the Supreme Administrative Court, where two separate panels ruled in 2014 that CPC was wrong in dismissing the complaint and ordered a repeat investigation.
After a repeat probe, the regulator found that Vivacom made no effort to work with ETCC to fix the issue, while at the same time “showing different behaviour in similar previous cases of unauthorised traffic”. CPC concluded that Vivacom’s decision to unilaterally cancel the contract was motivated by a desire to change the terms of its contractual relationship with ETCC, which would put the smaller operator at a disadvantage to its direct competitors.
CPC said that the fine can be appealed within a period of 14 days.