Excessive mobile data connectivity prices in Greece Tick the box: True or false? 19 May 2020

Τhe past few days, a study of the independent research firm Rewheel on “the competitiveness of the Greek mobile data connectivity market within the wider context of digital economy competitiveness”, commissioned by the Hellenic Competition Commission (HCC), has sparked a heated debate between the latter, the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission (HTPC) and the mobile network operators (3 in total) in Greece.

HCC’s initiative was launched in the context of its current “research & development program activities on the structure and state of the Greek digital economy”. A key enabler of the digital economy is mobile data.

The study, amongst others, examines the structure of the Greek mobile connectivity market and the latest mobile data connectivity prices in Greece, comparing them with the prices in EU28 & OECD and discusses the factors that restrict competition in the Greek mobile market. As noted by the HCC, the study focuses on a problem that is not new in Greece, the excessive mobile data connectivity prices in Greece; something that has already been highlighted in the digital competiveness’ annual studies of the European Commission and the Greek government.

Consumers are well aware of the problem of excessive prices; it is common knowledge that the connectivity prices in Greece are extremely high, especially as regards the purchase of  gigabyte volume for use with smartphones. And such findings have been indicated numerous times by the European Commission. For the last five years, the European Commission has ranked Greece as the least competitive EU member state in fixed and mobile broadband connectivity and as one of the most expensive EU28 & OECD countries (annual mobile broadband price comparison studies).

Yet, HTPC and the mobile network operators, explicitly or implicitly, strongly challenged the credibility of the said study.  They argued that the study is not representative of the typical usage in Greece and does not factor in the discounts applied and the significant taxes imposed; however, they avoided commenting or referring to the European Commission’s studies which repeatedly and consistently come to the same conclusion as regards excessive prices.

There is interesting institutional background as well. Currently, it is the Hellenic Telecommunications and Post Commission, not the Hellenic Competition Commission, that holds competence over competition matters in the electronic communications market, within which fixed and mobile telephony, wireless communications and Internet access providers operate. On the other hand, in the light of the recent establishment by  the Greek Ministry of Development of a Lawmaking Commission with the task to transpose recent EU Directives and make recommendations on the modernization of competition law in Greece, the HCC, following the publication of the above mentioned study, has requested that it assumes the mandate to act ex-post and carry out formal sector inquires and impose regulatory remedies on the said market (instead of HTPC). This may justify HTPC’s fierce defense of its track record for the preservation of competition in the said market. in order to maintain its right to act both ex- ante and ex-post as regards the telecommunications market.

Whether eventually HCC’s request will be satisfied is certainly a political decision. What is of essence is that the competent authority, whichever is finally entrusted with this task, stops turning a blind eye and  proceed to the necessary actions in order to restore competition in the relevant market, so as prices to drop, with significant benefits to the consumers and the country’s digital transformation.

If you want to learn more about this or other competition law matters, please contact our partner Nancy Gerakini at gerakini@prentoulis.gr