18 Sep 2023 15:27

Russia's Big Four cellular operators must cancel fees for distributing internet traffic via mobile phone tethering within a month - FAS

MOSCOW. Sept 18 (Interfax) - Russia's Federal Anti-monopoly Service (FAS) has sent MTS, MegaFon , VimpelCom , and Tele2, the country's largest and so-called Big Four cellular operators, a warning about the requirement to cancel fees for distributing internet traffic via mobile phone tethering within a month, the watchdog said in a statement.

As stated, FAS has received a large number of consumer complaints from cellular service subscribers regarding these fees.

FAS in August sent inquiries to the Big Four operators to establish all the circumstances and details. "Meantime, the companies have not provided sufficient economic, technological or other justification with regard to the service," the agency said.

"The agency has established that telecom operators have been imposing unfavorable terms and conditions in their contracts for providing communications services to subscribers by setting fees for distributing internet traffic from the subscribers' devices," the statement said.

The agency also decided that the actions of cellular operators show signs of violation of antimonopoly legislation (Clause 3, Part 1, Article 10 of the Law "On Protection of Competition"). The law states that it is prohibited to impose contract terms on a counterparty that are unfavorable to it or not related to the subject agreements (economically or technologically not justified and (or) not directly provided for by federal laws, regulations).

"FAS Russia has issued warnings to MTS, MegaFon, [VimpelCom's] Beeline, and Tele2 to cease these actions. The operators must comply within a month by canceling fees for distributing internet access from mobile devices, and by preventing restrictions on this functionality for subscribers," the statement said.

FAS said it has the right to initiate cases of violation of antimonopoly legislation if the companies do not comply with the warnings.


The press services of the mobile operators told Interfax that the companies have not yet received an official warning from the Federal Antimonopoly Service.

MTS said it would decide on further actions after reading the agency warning.

However, MTS also stated it had already submitted to all the required information and sufficient economic and technical justification to FAS for changing the Internet tethering parameters under MTS conditions.

"Paid tethering [using a mobile phone as an access point for other devices to the Internet] is a forced measure aimed at reducing the uncontrolled growth of Internet traffic on the communications network, part of which is generated precisely thanks to the distribution of the Internet. This measure was not relevant 5-10 years ago at the beginning of the rapid development of the Internet, but is a necessary tool today for managing the load on the communications network to maintain high speeds and the quality of Internet access for all subscribers," the MTS press service said.

MTS added that the tethering fee "is not that significant" as explained in the conditions. "In addition, for those who do this often, we have provided options that allow for mobile tethering at a minimal fee," the company noted.

The Megafon press service said the company would analyze the regulator's requirements and decide on further steps after reading the warning.

VimpelCom also said that the company would study the FAS warning after receiving the documents.

Tele2 offered no comment.