Bird & Bird Wins Landmark Competition Case for 9 Telecom

17 juli 2003

France Telecom found guilty of unfair competition to tune of €7 million

International law firm, Bird & Bird has just won a landmark competition case for 9 Telecom, the third largest alternative fixed line operator, against France Telecom. The case which concerns “win-back” marketing campaigns launched by France Telecom in 2002, is the first time an operator has successfully managed to challenge France Telecom on the basis of unfair conduct as a result of win-back campaigns and also receive compensation. France Telecom was ordered to pay €7 million to 9 Telecom.

The case came to court because France Telecom launched an aggressive marketing action to “win-back” consumers in 2002. The campaign itself was a response to legislation, issued in January 2002, freeing other providers of telecommunications services (so-called “carriers of preselection”), Tele2, Cegetel and 9 Telecom to compete for customers for local services. Although various operators have contested these campaigns, 9 Telecom was the first operator so far, to have successfully shown that France Telecom has been guilty of unfair practice.

Olivier Fréget, who jointly heads Bird & Bird’s international competition group, explains:

“This case is different because it was privately litigated. It was tried in the French Commercial court which is the only jurisdiction in France that can demand damages. So far cases such as these have only been heard by the National Regulatory Authority which only has the power to fine incumbents found guilty of such conduct. The decision reached by the French Commercial Court to grant damages to a competitor of France Telecom is therefore an important development in the way litigation cases are handled in France.”

Christophe Roy, head of regulatory affairs at 9 Telecom, added:

“We are extremely pleased with this result and with Bird & Bird’s support. This decision is a substantial contribution to ensure fair competition among carriers of preselection, for the benefit of all customers”.

The Bird & Bird team was led by Olivier Fréget and assisted by Anne-Laure-Hélène Des Ylouses. Lathams & Watkins (Christophe Clarenc and Laure Marcilhacy) acted for France Telecom.

For more information, please contact Larry Cattle, Director of Marketing, on +44 (0) 20 7415 6156.