Hässleholm Municipality is prohibited from refusing, categorically and without individual examination, to give private companies access to municipal land in order to lay fibre-optic cables for broadband. The municipality’s conduct has distorted and impeded competition in the market. This is stated in a judgment of the Patent and Market Court.
“This is a fundamentally important decision, wherein the court again states that Hässleholm Municipality must not exclude private operators that wish to compete with the municipality in the market,” says Rikard Jermsten, Director General of the Swedish Competition Authority.
In October 2015, Hässleholm Municipality decided not to give private companies access to land contracts for laying broadband cables. The reasoning provided was that doing so would seriously hinder the municipality’s own establishment of a fibre-optic network.
In September 2017, the Swedish Competition Authority filed a lawsuit with the Patent and Market Court demanding that Hässleholm Municipality be prohibited from impeding and distorting competition in the market by refusing to grant the right to use land to private companies that wish to install fiber-optic cables underground.
“It is an important task of the Swedish Competition Authority to address anti-competitive behaviour by public operators when they conduct sales activities in competition with private operators,” says Rikard Jermsten.
In March 2019, the Swedish Patent and Market Court ruled that Hässleholm Municipality must not prevent private fibre-optic cable companies from burying fibre-optic cables in the municipality by refusing to grant them the right to use land. The municipality appealed against the judgment in the Patent and Market Court of Appeal, which referred the case back to the Patent and Market Court. The court subsequently re-examined the case.
In the judgment pronounced today, the Patent and Market Court has once again ruled that Hässleholm Municipality is prohibited from refusing to grant the right to use municipal land to private companies that wish to lay fibre-optic cables. The municipality must pay a fine of SEK 25 million if it violates the prohibition.
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