European Union raids three Internet providers

The EU's investigative commission conducted raids on three telecom groups on suspicion of anti-trust violations 

Wolfgang Rattay/ Reuters/ File
The logo of Deutsche Telekom on the 'Colonia' TV tower in the western German city of Cologne. Deutsche Telekom was one of three telecom companies raided by the European Commission.

European Union officials on Thursday conducted raids on three telecommunications companies as part of ongoing anti-trust investigations.

The EU’s investigative branch, the European Commission, had concerns that the companies involved – Germany's Deutsche Telekom, France's Orange SA, and Spanish firm Telefonica – might have violated EU regulations that “prohibit the abuse of a dominant market position.”

Though the EC did not name the telecom companies involved in the investigation. Deutsche Telekom and Orange SA both confirmed the raid in separate statements, and Reuters reported that Telefonica was also raided, citing a source familiar with the issue.

The three Internet companies act as conduits through which smaller content providers offer their services at the retail level.

‘This service is crucial for the functioning of the Internet,” the EC’s statement reads.

The raids were conducted in response to complaints by local regulator Cogent Communications Group Inc., a Washington-based Internet provider whose customers transfer use services of Deutsche Telekom, Orange SA, and Telefonica, according to Bloomberg. Cogent alleges that the European telecom companies don’t provide enough bandwidth to meet demand.

As part of these investigations, data and emails at the company’s Headquarters in Bonn were also seized, according to a statement released by Deutsche Telekom on Thursday.

“Deutsche Telekom is surprised by the initiation of further investigations by the Commission...since previous allegations have all turned out to be unfounded,” the statement reads.

The EC carries out these kinds of inspections as a preliminary step into investigating suspected anticompetitive practices, though such inspections “do not mean that the companies are guilty of anti-competitive behavior” nor do they “prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself.”

The companies could face fines amounting to 10 percent of their annual global sales. Deutsche Telekom, which includes the US firm T-Mobile, generated $76 billion (58 €) in revenue in 2012, according to the German news outlet, der Spiegel.

There is no deadline for inquiries into anti-competitive conduct in the European Union. 

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