Industry Capture of Commissioner Thierry Breton
Our open letter, dated 26 January 2024, raises serious concerns about Commissioner Breton’s actions that seemingly favor the telecom industry over the interests of European citizens. We point to instances where the former CEO of France Telecom has proposed policies that could harm competition and consumer rights in the European Union. Due to the severity of the matter, we physically delivered the letter ourselves to all 705 Members of the European Parliament.
The suspicion of undue influence started when Mr. Breton came to office and manifested when he attempted to withdraw the ePrivacy reform in 2019 – a move that would fulfill a key demand of the telecom industry. It is vital, however, for the integrity of EU institutions that appointed officials uphold the highest standards of impartiality and are free from undue industry influence. Thus, despite his prior role as CEO of France Telecom, the public expects Commissioner Breton to keenly adhere to neutrality and objectivity on matters relating to the telecom industry.
Of particular concern was his announcement of a new “Digital Networks Act”and the declared objective to support the creation of a few “European champions”. Mr. Breton has thus officially sided with former monopolist telecom companies and their calls for market deregulation and reducing competition in the EU telecom sector. A key pillar of European success is regulating to ensure competitiveness. This approach has benefited consumers over decades in the form of affordable access prices and high service quality. Yet, Commissioner Breton proposes a drastic shift in the regulation of the telecom sector that aims to curtail competitiveness for the benefit of fewer, even bigger telecom operators across Europe.
Additionally, Commissioner Breton’s handling of the network fee (aka. “fair share”) debate, including his disregard for public consultation and impact assessment, undermines the EU’s principles of transparency and accountability. We have thus gathered a broad alliance of stakeholders and asked the European Commission to launch a thorough and comprehensive impact assessment. Against the public opposition of regulators, consumers, creative industries, public and private broadcasters, civil society and many governments, Commissioner Breton pushed for a dangerous regulatory regime that would undermine net neutrality and had already failed in other regions. He and and his staff had more lobby meetings on the subject with the telecom industry than with all other stakeholder groups combined. This approach not only jeopardizes net neutrality but also contradicts the European standards for public officials and sets a concerning example of industry capture that deters trust in EU institutions.
Therefore we urge all members of the European parliament to consider these concerns seriously when evaluating Commissioner Breton’s potential reappointment after the June 2024 EU election and scrutinize any other incoming Commissioner for their ties to the telecom (or other) industries.
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