“MEO confirms that it was notified of this note of illegality by the Autoridade da Concorrência – AdC (The Competition Authority). Convinced of its innocence, in compliance with the law, MEO will respond to the notification, but refuting all the charges directed at it”, according to the response sent to Lusa by Altice Portugal / MEO.
MEO also “strongly rejected the way in which these processes went public, causing damage to the image and good name of the companies. In this specific case, in less than 12 hours after notification, the press has already made reports, being in line with the need for verified media coverage”.
The telecommunications operator has revealed that it will activate “all defence mechanisms” that are conferred on it by the legal order, and will “to the last resort and the last consequences clarify the whole truth”.
On 18 July, AdC accused MEO, NOS, NOWO and Vodafone of entering into a cartel to limit competition in advertising on the Google search engine, harming consumers.
As a result of the agreement, according to the AdC, when users search something on Google for telecommunications services containing the name of one of the operators, in the results of greater visibility in that search engine, they do not find proposals for the same service as other competing operators , which makes it difficult to compare offers.
The AdC investigation reveals that the cartel started in 2010, “with no evidence that it has ceased”.
The process was opened by the AdC in January 2019 and was originated in a complaint made under the Clemency Programme.
“In practice, the cartel proceeds by abstaining from the communication of three competing operators with consumers through the results of greater visibility and prominence on Google, depriving the consumer of easy access to alternative proposals”, says Concorrência in a statement.
The AdC points out that, under normal conditions of competition, “any operator would want his proposal to appear whenever a consumer made a research on telecommunications services.
“In a market where this comparison is already complex for any consumer, given the specificities involved in telecommunications packages (number of channels, internet traffic, fixed telecommunications, among others), the cartel between operators MEO, NOS, NOWO and Vodafone makes research and consequent consumer mobility even more difficult”, according to the AdC.
Thus, it says, “this cartel is liable to reduce the incentive and the ability to compete for the submission of proposals with the best prices and conditions, thus limiting competition and harming consumers”.
This is the second case opened by a cartel in telecommunications, “a market in a situation of little competitive dynamics for several years”, as the President of the Board of Directors of AdC, at the Assembly of the Republic, recently referred.