Authorities in Italy searched the headquarters of the country’s biggest phone carriers as part of an antitrust probe over pricing of mobile and fixed-line services.
Financial police and officials from the Italian Antitrust Agency searched offices in Rome and Milan of Telecom Italia SpA, Vodafone Group’s local unit, Swisscom AG’s Fastweb, Wind Tre and industry lobby Asstel, the regulator said in a statement.
The investigation relates to an accusation from competition regulators that the carriers raised prices when they switched to billing customers every 30 days from a 28-day system. Telecom regulator AGCOM recently ruled the companies must use a 30-day system. Authorities also allege that the companies secretly colluded to agree on 28-day bills.
Telecom Italia denied in a statement that it colluded with rivals on commercial strategy and said it was unaware of any improper behavior. Wind Tre, Vodafone and Fastweb also denied any wrongdoing and said they would cooperate with the probe.
Asstel is fully collaborating with financial police and antitrust officials and its members haven’t taken part in any anti-competitive behavior, according to a statement from the industry group.
Carriers in Italy are struggling to increase sales in one of the world’s most competitive markets by trying to attract more-lucrative subscribers with offers of fast broadband services and on-demand TV.
The competition regulator’s investigation could take several months. If found guilty, the companies could be handed fines of as much as 10 percent of their revenue. However, financial penalties in case such as these are usually far less.