Bulgaria moves against bid by mobile operators to raise fees

Authorities in Bulgaria say that they are moving against the announcements by the country’s three mobile operators that they will increase monthly subscription fees in 2022.

The Consumer Protection Commission (CPC) said in a December 23 statement that the decisions by the mobile operators amounted to an unfair commercial practice.

The commission said that this was because the operators intended including the official inflation figures for 2020 in the calculation of the increase, which ran counter to the contract with subscribers that provided for only using the figure for the preceding year.

“The use of the average annual consumer price index for 2020 should have been reflected in the accounts in December 2021 at the latest,” the commission said.

CPC head Dimitar Margaritov told public broadcaster Bulgarian National Television in an interview on December 23 that the commission had the right to fine companies for unfair commercial practices, but not to affect pricing.

Economy and Industry Minister Kornelia Ninova told a briefing on December 23, after meeting Margaritov and consumer bodies, that the CPC would issue an order “banning” the fee increases.

“We want to warn them that if they do (increase fees), we will implement all mechanisms and legal measures to prevent that,” Ninova said.

She said that there were “several” possible measures against the increases.

“The imposition of a fine is the smallest, it amounts to1000 to 30 000 leva. But secondly, we will turn to the court to ask, if our order is appealed, to apply preliminary execution, that is, for the increase in price not to proceed,” Ninova said.

On December 22, Ombudsman Diana Kovacheva wrote to the chief executives of the three mobile operators, urging them not to increase the fees, given the context of the emergency situation, because the increases would hit the pockets of consumers.

“Against the background of the measures taken by the National Assembly and the government to control the extreme rise in fuel prices so that Bulgarian households do not experience a price shock during the crisis, the news came about the increase in prices of mobile operators. This is inexplicable, disturbing and unfair,” Kovacheva said, according to a statement by her office.

Kovacheva said that during the pandemic, online work and online learning are unthinkable without the services of mobile operators, while the telecommunications sector was one of the most profitable in Bulgaria, as evidenced by revenue data.

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