France Telecom chief criticises EU

Plans to cut roaming charges will lead to significant job losses, he warns

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By  Published  December 23, 2006

(Paris) Didier Lombard, the CEO of France Telecom, has attacked plans by the European Commission (EC) to cut the cost of mobile roaming charges, warning that the move could put jobs at risk and lead to a loss of business for European manufacturers of telecom equipment. In an interview with the Financial Times, the French CEO criticised the plans of the EC to reduce the cost of making mobile phone calls abroad, and said that thousands of European jobs may be lost as a result of its action. Lombard also said that if the Commission’s plans go ahead, mobile phone operators may start increasing the number of orders they place for telecoms equipment with Asian firms in an attempt to cut costs, according to the FT article. “In the past, it is only the eastern part of Europe which has been linked to this type of regulation,” Lombard said in the newspaper interview. “We will adapt to the situation, which means the telecoms sector as a whole will suffer,” he said. “All the European manufacturers will be impacted,” Lombard added. The Commission has hit back, however, claiming that Lombard’s attack was aimed at distracting attention away from the telecommunication service provider’s own problems and implied that the French telecoms firm was looking for a scapegoat. “I have the impression that somebody needed to explain the difficulties and the lack of a performance of a company that is, according to this interview, worse than that of other telecom companies in the EU,” Martin Selmayr, a spokesman for the EC, retaliated, according to a report by agency AFX News. “The EU is, of course, always a good scapegoat for these issues,” Selmayr went on to add. The plan by the Commission, which has been put forward by EU Information Society Commissioner Viviane Reding, calls for price caps on the wholesale roaming fees that one operator charges another within the bloc. Reding also wants to see a cap on the retail tariffs charged to EU customers to ensure they benefit from lower wholesale prices. EU telecom ministers are understood to have given their initial backing for the plans, but to have said that fixing consumer prices directly should be a last resort.

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