Sure, JT, and the Guernsey Competition and Regulatory Authority are all in court in Guernsey today, as the two telecom firms contest a fine handed to them for breaching competition laws.
The GCRA fined Sure and JT £2,962,632 and £439,608 respectively for commercial collusion which the regulator says infringed competition law.
Sure labelled the investigation and its findings as “completely flawed from the outset,” and said it would appeal the penalty through the Royal Court.
That is starting today, with at least four days set aside for the hearing before the Bailiff.
Pictured: The Bailiff, Richard McMahon will hear the appeal lodged by Sure and JT against their GCRA fine.
The GCRA investigation had claimed that between August 2018 and November 2019, “JT and Sure privately developed a joint plan without disclosing it to the Authority or the States that would mutually benefit each in their homes markets”.
This related to the removal of JT’s network infrastructure from Guernsey, in exchange for Sure removing their infrastructure from Jersey.
It also claimed that information was repeatedly exchanged over their commercial strategies for introducing future mobile networks, such as 5G, “at a slower pace than thought by the States… and on a common ‘line to take’ that they were working to achieve the objective… in line with, or ahead of, the UK”.
The GCRA added that the companies did this whilst privately agreeing “not to do so,” which therefore did not align with their public intentions to government.
Pictured: The telecommunication providers have been accused of colluding to deliver future mobile network provisions at a slower speed than they had promised to the States of Guernsey, according to the GCRA.
The penalties were calculated as a percentage of turnover, factoring in the timeframe of the offending practices. The GCRA used a rate of 12% which it said was low-range for serious infringements.
It found that whilst both companies had taken steps to prevent reoccurrence of the conduct, JT’s measure were more “comprehensive and wide-ranging” than Sure’s. The GCRA therefore reduced JT’s fine by 10%, offering only a 5% reduction to Sure.
Pictured: The breakdown of the fines issued to the companys.
Sure Group CEO Alistair Beak rejected the claims at the time, saying: “We are steadfast in our belief that we have done nothing wrong; at all times Sure has acted in accordance with the spirit and letter of the law.”
Mr Beak called the GCRA’s allegations “baseless” and implied that the regulator has an axe to grind with the company.
“Yet again, with this latest penalty process, we find ourselves facing a regulator which seems determined to find against us, in the face of clear and compelling evidence that there has been no wrongdoing,” he said.
“We will also continue to stand by the members of the Sure team who have acted with integrity and professionalism throughout this process, despite the spurious claims made against them by the GCRA, which are equally fundamentally wrong.”
He added that whilst the disparity in the sum of the fines issued does reflect the current market share of the company’s, that the total is “extraordinary” and “genuinely astonishing”.
“We would much rather be spending our time and resources delivering the best possible service to customers and continuing our investment in the Guernsey economy through our fibre broadband project.”
The GCRA maintain that “at a senior level JT and Sure were aware that their behaviour was likely to raise concerns".
The GCRA's decision can be read in full HERE.
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