Belgium: Belgian Competition Council fines Belgacom € 75,000 for providing incomplete response to questionnaire in merger cas…

On 5 April 2012, the Belgian Competition Council imposed a fine of € 75,000 on Belgian telecoms company Belgacom for providing an incomplete response to a request for information in the context of the merger review of Belgacom’s acquisition of The Phone House.

During the review of the Belgacom/The Phone House deal, the College of Competition Prosecutors sent a request for information to Belgacom on 18 August 2011, asking for information on sales to new clients for post-paid mobile telephone services at The Phone House shops. Belgacom responded to this questionnaire on 24 August 2011, but failed to include certain data which resulted in Belgacom understating its share of sales at The Phone House stores.

The College of Competition Prosecutors noticed the incompleteness of Belgacom’s response less than seven weeks after Belgacom had submitted its initial response. Belgacom submitted the outstanding information at first request in mid-October 2011.

As recognised in the Competition Council’s press release, Belgacom’s incomplete answer had “no far-reaching consequences” and “was merely liable to cause a less efficient process of the investigation”. Still, because Belgacom infringed the legal obligation to provide complete responses to requests for information, the Competition Council considered that this breach could not remain unpunished. In imposing a “rather moderate” fine of € 75,000, the Council took account of the “rather limited consequences of the infringement”.