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Brussels to charge Vodafone and O2 over roaming

Abuse of position claims

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The European Commission is set to file formal charges against both Vodafone and O2 for over-charging mobile phone companies using their British networks.

Concerns over roaming charges first arose in July 2001 when the Commission raided offices in Germany and the UK. That action was based on fears that mobile companies were working together as an illegal cartel to fix prices. The current accusation is that Vodafone and O2 abused their dominant position, not that they worked as a cartel.

Competition commissioner Mario Monti is keen to show the EC can take actions with real impact for European citizens, according to the Financial Times. Roaming charges, when punters use their phones away from their home network, have been targetted by regulators before - Oftel said they were too high and too complicated three years ago.

The charges were due in May but may now be delayed until June or July. The charges are limited to 1997 to 2003. The EC says the two companies charged international companies 20 per cent more than domestic providers; and that wholesale prices were sometimes higher than retail prices. Officials hope to follow up this action with charges against T-Mobile's German network later this year. ®

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