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Friday, March 1, 2024

Telekom Has Filed a Lawsuit Against Pro Plus – What Will the Other Operators in the Telecommunications Market Do?

By: Sara Rančigaj / Nova24tv

According to unofficial information, the Slovenian Competition Protection Agency has initiated the proceedings against the leading media company in Slovenia, Pro Plus, because it conditioned the supply of its programmes with potentially controversial requirements. Another procedure against Pro Plus is also underway; namely, Telekom Slovenije, the leading Slovenian provider of ICT services and solutions, has filed a lawsuit against Pro Plus due to the disputed contract between the two entities. Telekom has accused Pro Plus of creating a contract that cannot be terminated unilaterally, and Pro Plus allegedly also offers packages at an unfair and excessive price. In addition, Telekom also believes that it has been treated differently from the other telecommunications providers. 

According to unofficial information that was first published on Planet TV, the Slovenian Competition Protection Agency is resuming proceedings against Pro Plus, which started in early 2017, for violating Article 9 of the Prevention of Restriction of Competition Act, and Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union.

The Competition Protection Agency allegedly initiated the proceedings against Pro Plus because it conditioned the supply of its tv programmes POP TV, KANAL A, OTO, BRIO and KINO to the operators with potentially controversial requirements. Among other things, Pro Plus supposedly required the operators to include all five programmes in all their subscription packages in the best programme spaces. “By doing so, they directly set unfair business sales conditions,” they said at Siol.

The Competition Protection Agency is also said to be bothered by the fact that Pro Plus offers these programmes to the operators exclusively inseparably, as all five of them are in one package. The price of the package of all programmes, which is up to 12 times higher than it was in 2017, is also said to be problematic. The result is less competition in the market and less technical progress – to the detriment of the viewers.

Telekom Slovenije has filed a lawsuit against Pro Plus
According to Požareport, Telekom Slovenije has also filed a lawsuit against Pro Plus, which refers to the disputed contract between Telekom Slovenije as a television provider, and Pro Plus, which was signed in 2016, and which is expected to expire this year.

Telekom Slovenije filed the lawsuit with the District Court in Ljubljana on the 29th of December 2021, through the Ljubljana law firm Golobič, Osterman (the company’s lawyer is Maruša Perko), and with the lawsuit, the company demands partial annulment of the said contract from 2016, and the return of the overpaid money, which amounts to a little more than 12 million euros.

As can be seen from the lawsuit, Telekom believes that Pro Plus is offering the package of TV programmes at an unfair and excessive price. In addition, they also pointed out that Telekom is being treated unfairly, compared to some other operators.

Telekom also pointed out that this is a long-term contract with a fixed duration, which does not offer the possibility for the plaintiff to unilaterally achieve its termination before the end date of the contract. According to Telekom, the established dominant position of Pro Plus and its abuse in the form of the enforced contractual provisions results in the nullity of the contract concluded between Pro Plus and Telekom.

Pro Plus has similar problems with the country’s second-largest television broadcaster, the company Telemach, as Telemach has allegedly only extended its service contract with Pro Plus, which expired at the end of last year, for three months, meaning until the end of March. The other television broadcasters, A1 and T2, also want new, different, and most of all fair conditions with Pro Plus; however, they are allegedly waiting for the moves of the biggest providers, meaning Telekom Slovenije and Telemach.

Have they changed the General Director of the company because of the announced lawsuits?
Given the problems that Pro Plus will have to face, it is no surprise that they have recently replaced the former General Director, Pavel Vrabec. The new General Director of the company is Branko Čakarmiš, the former Programming Director of Pop TV and Kanal A, who is also known for being a member of the jury in the reality show Slovenia’s Got Talent (Slovenija ima talent). The change of the General Director happened practically overnight, but according to journalist Požar, it was not a normal change, as he says that the Czech corporation PPF Group, which is the owner of Pro Plus (CME), certainly does not replace the heads of individual subsidiaries “without having a reason for it.”

Pro Plus’s operations so far also show that Pro Plus started operating at a profit after 2016. “The unfair contracts with TV operators are practically the only key to the successful operation of Pop TV and Kanal A,” says Požar. As can be seen from the data, Pro Plus fell into significant financial losses in 2012, and the then-owners were said to be on the verge of shutting down Pop TV and Kanal A and withdrawing from the Slovenian market. Pro Plus subsequently signed new contracts with all television operators in the country, with which they experienced a boom in their business. Last year, for example, Pro Plus had more than 66 million euros in turnover and almost 12 million euros in profit, which, as Požar pointed out, flew directly to an account in Bermuda.

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