Switzerland’s competition watchdog COMCO has fined Swisscom CHF 71.8 million. The semi-privatised Swiss telecom operator has been accused of using market dominance to gain an unfair advantage over competitors.
The commission said “the Swisscom group with its subsidiaries CT Cinetrade AG and Teleclub AG holds a dominant position particularly with respect to live broadcasting of Swiss football and ice hockey championship games on pay TV.” Adding that “Swisscom has abused this position against competing TV platform operators in order to restrain competitors in platform competition.”
COMCO said that with these subsidiaries, Swisscom holds a dominant position in live broadcasting of games of the Swiss football and ice hockey championships as well as of certain foreign football leagues on pay TV. This is because Swisscom subsidiary Cinetrade owns long-term and comprehensive exclusive rights regarding the broadcast of sports content on Swiss pay TV. In addition, COMCO says Swisscom has refused to supply some competitors with broadcasts of live sports for their platforms at all. To other competitors such as Cablecom, Swisscom has only granted access to a reduced range of sports content.
Furthermore, the competitors, unlike Swisscom, could only offer their customers the sports content in combination with the basic package of Teleclub. With these practices, Swisscom has gained an advantage in the competition between TV platforms in an illicit manner, says COMCO.
Last July, after an investigation that started in April 2013, the watchdog threatened Swisscom with a fine of CHF 143 million. This fine was later reduced to CHF 71.8 million after COMCO decided to take into account the fact that Swisscom had allowed competition at the beginning of the process.
Swisscom rejects the accusation
Swisscom and its subsidiary Cinetrade reject the accusations and say they have respected the law. “As in other countries, broadcasting rights are periodically awarded in an open and transparent manner so that other parties can participate, in particular cable operators. Large investments have been made over recent years to create a more attractive offering of paid-for sports broadcasts on Swisscom TV. This is the only way to protect the investment we have made.”
Swisscom will now examine the 200 page document that sets out COMCO’s decision and can appeal the judgement in Switzerland’s Federal Administrative Court.