European competition commissioner Karel van Miert said he will fine incumbent telecomms operators that abuse their dominant national positions in the liberalised market.
Van Miert was speaking at an event organised by the European Commission to mark EU telecomms liberalisation and said he will act quickly to ensure new entrants are able to compete fairly with incumbents.
"If someone continues to abuse its dominant position - and I am thinking more specifically about incumbents that will remain dominant for some considerable time - then we will act to impose fines if that is needed," he said.
"I hope it is not needed. If nevertheless we have to go for it...no-one should have the illusion that the Commission should remain idle," he said. "The work ahead is as much as what has been accomplished."
The 1 January 1998 deadline marked the introduction of the final end to restrictive barriers, including opening of the public voice telephony market, and accompanying checks on wholesale tariffs.
"I am aware of a whole range of difficulties. We are determined even in concrete cases to continue to handle these very swiftly," he said.
While national regulators will be the first port of call for complaints the Commission will not "sit by and be idle to what eventually happens", he said, noting there could be conflicts with national regulators.
"If there are still good reasons for complaining or something in the national market is not according to the rules there will be no doubt that the Commission will be active," van Miert added.
"From time to time that might lead to conflict with national regulators. That cannot be excluded," he said.
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