L’Express reported this week that Orange & SFR are being taken to court by four of their biggest competitors - Bouygues Telecom, Oméa Telecom (Virgin Mobile), Outremer Telecom (Only), and Euro-Information Telecom (NRJ Mobile, CIC Mobile) - over claims of unfair practices between the mobile providers between 2005 and 2008. The suit comes now after similar decision came down December 2012.
The accusations go as follows: between 2005 and 2008, SFR & Orange, who combined made up a total 83% of the mobile market, offered a service to mobile users which allowed them to make unlimited calls to users of the same network (Orange & SFR respectively), an offer which the prosecuting operators say had an influence on mobile users’ decision to stay with or switch to SFR or Orange. The impact on the market, they say, rings out to the tune of 1.4 Billion euros.
The only major Mobile provider not involved in the suit is Free Mobile, which launched in 2012.
Mobile operator suits have gotten heated since 2012. when Internet Service Provider Iliad launched Free Mobile, a move which would have drastic effects on mobile operators, especially Bouygues Telecom & SFR. Bouygues has been stalled with its efforts to launch an iPhone 5-compatible 4G network (there is not currently one on the market, due to Clockblocking by other operators); SFR, however, has taken the biggest hit.
After switching out one CEO, SFR announced this week that it has yet again changed CEOs, this time in favor of Jean-Yves Charlier[fr] , the 4th (or 5th) CEO of the company in the past year and a half (since Free Mobile’s launch). Word of Vivendi’s desire to offload SFR have not been good for SFR either; while Orange can survive this kind of suit (which may or may not rule against them), SFR might not be able to handle the pressure.
This time next year we may be seeing one less mobile operators in France, which might not be a write-off that Vivendi can afford these days.
Photo courtesy of TF1