ROME (Reuters) - An Italian court has annulled a fine of 228 million euros ($271 million) slapped on Italy's top four phone operators last year over a breach of competition rules for collectively agreeing to raise their prices.
Italy's competition watchdog had claimed Telecom Italia, Vodafone, CK Hutchison’s unit Wind Tre and Swisscom’s Fastweb had agreed to raise tariffs after being forced to scrap a billing scheme based on 28 days rather than a full month.
But a Rome-based administrative court said in a series of rulings published on Monday, and seen by Reuters, that the antitrust had not shown the companies were not acting within their rights.
The ruling prompted quick reaction from consumer groups.
"It's a disgrace! That the legal system in this country doesn't work is well known but we've now touched the bottom," Massimiliano Dona, president of consumer association Unione Nazionale Consumatori, was quoted by Italian media as saying.
TIM and Vodafone declined to comment. The other companies were not immediately available for a comment.
($1 = 0.8422 euros)
(Reporting by Marco Carta, writing by Stephen Jewkes, editing by Agnieszka Flak)