Bulgaria’s competition watchdog fines electricity distributors 1.17M leva over access to utility poles
Bulgaria’s Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) said on June 2 that it has fined the country’s three electricity distribution firms a combined 1.17 million leva for unfair trade practices in restricting the access of cable TV and internet service providers to utility poles.
The regulator handed the largest fines to Czech CEZ Distribution, which operates in western Bulgaria, and Austria’s EVN Distribution, which services southern and south-eastern Bulgaria, at 558 400 leva and 441 400 leva, respectively. Czech firm Energo-Pro Grid, which services northern and north-eastern Bulgaria, was fined 167 300 leva.
The fines come more than a year after CPC found the three companies guilty of engaging in unfair trade practices, issuing a final ruling without right of appeal. Unlike that ruling, the fines can be appealed at the Supreme Administrative Court, the regulator said.
Utility poles were part of the electricity infrastructure owned by the distribution firms and, the same time, such power poles were the most expedient means for cable TV and internet service providers to expand their networks, which gave the electricity distribution companies dominant market position in this sector, CPC ruled last year.
Because maintenance costs of utility poles were already factored into the bills paid by consumers, charging telecommunications companies for access to the poles was an additional source of revenue for the distribution companies and abuse of dominant market position, according to the CPC.
The regulator said that by including pole maintenance costs in the rental price was unjustified and was unfair to telecommunication companies wanting to rent use of the poles.