October 15, 2007 / 7:14 PM / 12 years ago

Spain's top 3 cell phone companies probed for collusion

A woman crosses a Spanish mobile operator's Movistar logo at the 3GSM World Congress in Barcelona February 15, 2007. Spain's National Competition Commission is investigating whether Movistar, Vodafone and France Telecom's Orange coordinated a rise in their tariffs in March, the Consumer and Users Organisation said. REUTERS/Albert Gea

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s competition watchdog has opened a probe of the country’s three largest mobile phone operators for possible collusion, Spain’s Consumer and Users Organisation said on Monday.

The National Competition Commission is investigating whether Telefonica’s (TEF.MC) Movistar, Vodafone (VOD.L) and France Telecom’s FTE.PA Orange coordinated a rise in their tariffs in March, the Consumer and Users Organisation said.

All three raised tariffs to compensate for the banning of a system whereby the three dominant operators rounded prices up to the nearest minute.

The practice netted the three some 1.21 billion euros based on 2005 figures, the Consumer and Users Organisation said.

No one at the competition commission was available for comment on Monday.

A spokesman for Telefonica, which is Spain’s biggest mobile operator with about 22 million clients, declined to make an immediate comment on hearing news of the probe.

Vodafone is Spain’s No. 2 with 14.6 million clients at the end of 2006, when Orange FTE.PA had 11.1 million.

The consumers’ association complained about the companies to the competition authorities in February after the new tariffs were announced.

Reporting by Manuel Maria Ruiz; writing by Ben Harding

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