French operators reportedly lining up to claim reparations in ‘gun-jumping’ case

facade_campus_sfr_maxime_dufour__photographies_3French service providers Orange, Bouygues Telecom and Free are likely to seek reparations from Altice and SFR over Altice’s “jumping the gun” on collaborating with SFR ahead of receiving a regulatory green light to take control of the French service provider, and similar coordination between the pair over SFR’s acquisition of Virgin Mobile France, according to a press report.

Altice and SFR were jointly fined €80 million by the Autorité de la Concurrence, the French competition watchdog, over the two cases earlier this month. The regulator said that Altice had “jumped the gun” on approval by collaborating ahead of receiving a final green light. It said that documents showed that Altice had exercised a controlling influence over both companies before it received regulatory permission to move forwards.

SFR and Altice said at the time that they would not contest the fine. The pair maintained that the practices referred to by the Autorité were aimed at making “the new entity operational as soon as possible” after the go-ahead was secured and that they were “performed in good faith, in the midst of legal uncertainty”.

According to French daily La Tribune, the censuring of Altice’s takeover of SFR and of Virgin Mobile France has encouraged Free to believe it is in a position to take legal action of its own to secure reparations. Orange is taking a similar view, according to the paper, citing unnamed sources at both operators.

The Autorité de la Concurrence has yet to publish its decision on the Altice case, making its findings known to SFR confidentially. The operator has an opportunity to make a case that some of the points raised should be kept confidential. The watchdog will consider these claims before publishing its findings, leaving the field open for the three rival operators to take action.