EU warns 11 more members on telecom competition

Commission warns countries to properly police their telecom sectors

The European Commission, the European Union's overall telecom regulator, launched its latest bid on Thursday to get its member states to ensure fair competition in the telecom sector.

The Commission sent letters to 11 of the bloc's 25 member states, warning them that unless they take action to properly police their telecoms sectors, it may have to take them before the European Court of Justice, which could levy large fines on each government until they address the failings.

The letters were addressed to the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and Finland.

Most of the letters concern failure to offer number portability, which acts as a disincentive for users to switch operators. This was the case for the Czech Republic, Latvia, Poland and Slovenia.

Another problem is that some countries are not offering a comprehensive printed directory for fixed and mobile phone users or a directory inquiries service for fixed and mobile users. This would put customers of mobile operators, especially businesses, at a disadvantage if their numbers could not be looked up easily. The Commission warned the Czech Republic, France, Greece, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland and Slovakia for failing on this point.

Finland was told that its telecom regulator is not sufficiently independent of the government ministry, which defines the markets for regulation but also controls state ownership of some operators.

Poland was told it must ensure that the E.U.-wide emergency services number "112" works properly on its territory.

The member states concerned now have two months to respond to the Commission's concerns. The Commission will then examine their answers to see if the failings have been addressed. But Poland and Latvia have received final warnings and face challenges in the European Court of Justice if they do not make the necessary changes. The Court can fine member states that fail to comply with the Commission's demands.

The Commission is still assessing responses to warning letters sent to other member states including Germany, the E.U.'s biggest telephone market, Italy, the Netherlands, Austria and Portugal.