The United Group subsidiaries SBB and United Media have filed criminal charges against Telekom Srbija and Telenor Serbia for allegedly committing a criminal offence by concluding a restrictive agreement.
In a statement, they said that “there are grounds for suspicion that the applicants concluded a restrictive agreement at the end of 2020 and the beginning of 2021, which divides the market in order to push a third market participant, SBB in terms of infrastructure, and United Media in terms of media content”.
SBB and United Media went on to say they expect the competent Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office to initiate proceedings against Telekom and Telenor, because, as they stated, Serbian laws and international legal standards explicitly prohibit consensual and harmonised actions in order to divide the market with the intention of suppressing other market competitors.
N1 TV, which is owned by United Group, quotes Telekom as saying that the lawsuits put pressure on independent institutions and prejudice the decision of the Commission for Protection of Competition on the admissibility of business cooperation between Telenor and Telekom Srbija. Telekom adds that this also raises the question as to why the lawsuit is filed after almost three months “at the moment when the deadline for the decision of the competent Commission expires”.
It also says that the application “has no legal basis”, because the contracts between Telecom and Telenor have not entered into force, nor can they do so by law without the approval of the Commission.
Meanwhile, Telenor says that SBB’s and United Media’s action is an abuse of its own media and state institutions in order to put pressure on legal and regulatory bodies to prevent the entry of new, free competition into the media distribution market in Serbia.
Telenor adds that the latest criminal complaint is unfounded and aimed at prejudging the decision of the Commission for Protection of Competition, because the agreements are not yet final, nor will they enter into force until the Commission makes a decision.