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PRAGUE May 24 The Czech lower house of
parliament approved a telecoms bill on Wednesday that opens the
way for higher fines for operators and boosts customer rights,
getting through a major piece of legislation before an October
Network operators O2 Czech Republic, Deutsche
Telekom's T-Mobile and Vodafone have been
under fire over data prices, criticised by politicians and
customers as some of the highest in the European Union.
The bill enables the Czech Telecommunications Office (CTU)
to impose a fine of up to 10 percent of a company's net revenues
in the country, which could be doubled if it commits another
offence within two years of the first one.
O2 Czech Republic reported revenues of 37.5 billion crowns
($1.59 billion) in 2016, compared with T-Mobile's 26.5 billion
Fines are currently capped at 40 million crowns.
Also under the law, operators would also have a maximum
10-day period to release customers from their contracts, instead
of the current 42 days.
The bill now goes to the upper chamber, where it is expected
to be approved, before heading for the president's signature to
put it into a law.
Analysts have viewed the new bill as a negative for the
operators. O2 Czech Republic's Prague-listed stocks were down
0.3 percent on Wednesday. They have risen 7 percent so far in
2017, supported by a generous dividend policy.
Data prices have became an issue this year in the early
run-up to a national election this autumn.
Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka has presented the law to
voters as a way to cut prices. Earlier this year, he sacked
Industry Minister Jan Mladek, a Social Democrat party colleague,
over lack of activity on the issue.
While the bill got broad party support, Sobotka is hoping it
will boost Social Democrat support as his party trails ruling
partner ANO by a wide margin in polls.
ANO's leader and founder is billionaire businessman Andrej
Babis, who serves as finance minister but is due to be dismissed
later on Wednesday as part of an agreement ending a government
Babis has faced accusations of dodging taxes and interfering
in a newspaper he owns. He has denied wrongdoing but Sobotka has
demanded his dismissal.
($1 = 23.6420 Czech crowns)
(Reporting by Robert Muller; Editing by Jason Hovet and Mark