Public Prosecutor asks for a reduction in the fine of 829,000 euros imposed on MEO and criticizes ANACOM

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The Public Ministry today requested the reduction of the fine of 829,000 euros imposed on MEO for infringements of the universal service of offering public telephone booths and considered “incomprehensible” the time that the process took in ANACOM.

In the final arguments of the trial of the appeal filed by MEO at the Competition, Regulation and Supervision Court (TCRS), in Santarém, the public prosecutor Paulo Vieira referred to the fact that the new Electronic Communications Law (LCE), of 2022, has removed the public payphones from the universal service, now including the obligation to provide a universal service and affordable broadband Internet and fixed voice service.

This change to the law that was in effect at the time of the facts raises, for the MP, the question of whether the sanctions that were applied by the National Communications Authority (ANACOM) to the telecommunications operator, for the practice of 49 misdemeanors, can be totally or partially affected or whether they are maintained.

For the prosecutor, the changes made to the LCE drop a large part of the infractions charged, which would not have happened if there had not been excessive delay in the administrative process.

For Paulo Vieira, it is “incomprehensible, as the Public Prosecutor’s Office, which represents the community”, that a regulatory authority has sanctioned facts committed in 2016 six years after they occurred, stressing that, even if there is no risk of prescription, since it is a universal service, “it had to move more quickly.

Recognizing that the need for prevention is now less, since the public payphones are no longer part of the universal service, the prosecutor admitted that this may lead to a reduction in fines, but stressed the importance of ensuring compliance with universal service standards.

For the MP, there are still reasons to sanction the company in only three situations, although in a more attenuated form.

Paulo Vieira considered that the Court can reduce the highest parcel fine, of 400,000 euros, applied for the unreliability of the information in the records about the occurrence and duration of breakdowns in public stations.

On the other hand, he admitted that he may turn to admonition the sanction regarding the reporting of performance levels measured in the 4th quarter of 2015, arising from errors in an Excel sheet that were later corrected.

As for the fine for failure to meet the performance target at the end of the third year of universal service provision, the Public Prosecutor’s Office (MP) defended that the piecemeal fine of 50,000 euros may be reduced, maintaining the conviction, despite the fact that the infraction resulted from acts of vandalism at booths located in the city of Porto, as MEO had failed to report, as it should have, these situations to ANACOM.

About MEO’s allegation that it cannot be condemned twice for the same facts, since a fine was applied by the State for breach of contract, Paulo Vieira said that these are different situations, and ANACOM’s sanction is of a misdemeanor nature.

In his allegations, ANACOM’s representative sought to justify the delay in the processes instructed by this regulator, stating that ANACOM “does what it can with the means it has.

“Things are what they are,” he said, claiming to see no reason to change ANACOM’s decision, stressing that MEO has admitted the flaws detected without demonstrating what steps it has taken to correct them.

In her allegations, MEO’s attorney considered that it was proven during the trial why there were service failures, asking for an acquittal.

The reading of the sentence was scheduled for July 28.

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