Guernsey Press

Sure fined £2.94m. for competition law breach

SURE is being fined nearly £3m. by the regulator for intentionally infringing competition law.

Alistair Beak CEO of the Sure Group.(31061358)

But the telecoms company is maintaining its innocence, stating the investigation was flawed. It intends to appeal through the Royal Court.

JT is also being fined £439,608 for its part in the breach.

The Guernsey Competition and Regulatory Authority ruled that both companies broke the law by attempting to control the Guernsey mobile market illegally.

That included colluding to introduce the next generation of mobile networks at a slower pace than sought by the States, while lying to the States that they planned to do the work in line or ahead of the UK.

Sure was fined £2.96m. for the breach, with the fine based on how long the breach went on for, and the company’s turnover.

‘Sure took active and intentional steps to prevent certain key evidence coming to the attention of the authority,’ the GCRA said.

The authority recognised both companies had taken steps to avoid this happening again, but felt that JT’s was more comprehensive and wide-ranging.

Sure continued to offer a robust defence yesterday, claiming the investigation was flawed.

‘We are steadfast in our belief that we have done nothing wrong,’ said Alistair Beak, CEO of the Sure Group.

‘At all times Sure has acted in accordance with the spirit and letter of the law.’

He said that the GCRA case had changed numerous times, as allegations against Sure were wrong.

‘We find ourselves facing a regulator which seems determined to find against us, in the face of clear and compelling evidence that there has been no wrongdoing,’ he said.

‘The magnitude of the fine is extraordinary and one which sends a potentially chilling message on conducting business and attracting investment into Guernsey.

'It is also a concern that there should be such a significant disparity in the fines proposed for Sure and JT.

‘While in large measure this reflects our respective market share, the increased fine for Sure is genuinely astonishing and, from our perspective, based on a polarised and fundamentally wrong view of the evidence.

‘Inevitably we will now need to spend further time, effort and legal fees on challenging this punitive action, on top of the work already done addressing the earlier versions of the GCRA’s case.

‘We would much rather be spending our time and resources delivering the best possible service to customers and continuing our investment in the Guernsey economy through our fibre broadband project.’

Sure is currently installing fibre across the island as part of £37.5m. project. The States is investing up to £12.5m. into the project.

Guernsey competition law requires competitors to compete, but not collude. This means making independent decisions about how they behave in the market.

Airtel was not party to the other two companies’ arrangements.

JT declined to comment due to it being an ongoing legal matter.

The investigation has been hanging over the two firms for more than a year.

The GCRA’s action against them first emerged in April last year and they were found guilty by the regulator in December, at which point consideration was given to the financial penalty.