French telco landed with large phone bill
French telecoms regulator, ART, has ruled that mobile operator SFR must pay France Télécom E12m in a long-running disagreement over the price of calls from landlines to mobile phones.
ART ruled in November 2001 that the charge billed to landline telcos for those calls should be lowered to the tune of 40 per cent over three years, which would in turn lower the price consumers pay to call mobile numbers from their landlines.
As a result, SFR were obliged to lower the amount they bill France Télécom from March 2002 but the mobile operator delayed in doing this. The ART decision, from April but only made public this week, said SFR only applied the new tariff "from 1 May 2002, that is to say, two months after the date set down by the decision".
France Télécom puts the cost of the delay in rolling out the new tariff at around €12m.
In its defence, SFR stated that France Télécom had agreed with the delay and provided the regulator with a copy of an email dated 26 February to back it up.
This piece of evidence, which wasn't contested by France Télécom, indicated that it had proposed "to only take into account the reduction [in the tariff] when France Télécom's customer tariff has been adjusted".
However, ART concluded that the email in itself couldn't justify SFR's refusal to pay up. At the end of April, the regulator gave SFR one month to fulfil its obligations as set down by the November 2001 decision.
Spokesmen from the two operators confirmed that it had the payment had been made and the €12m debt claimed by France Télécom had been settled.
Christophe Guillemin writes for ZDNet France. Translation by Jo Best