Europe's five biggest telecom groups could face an investigation into possible collusion, the Financial Times reports, with the European Commission (EC) demanding information from the GSMA, the mobile industry association. The EC has suggested that executives from Deutsche Telekom, France Telecom, Telecom Italia, Telefónica, and Vodafone met regularly to debate issues, including the role of Apple and Google in the mobile industry and the future of mobile payments. Dubbed the E5, the group has now disbanded, with the GSMA taking on its work — hence the EC's questioning of the association.
A formal investigation has yet to be launched, however the EC only usually demands information if it has specific concerns about impropriety. The FT says that it is not yet clear whether the EC is targeting a specific agreement or issue from the meetings, but that such a request is normally the first step in a more serious investigation. However, a "person close to the situation" expressed surprise at the inquiry to the FT, especially since notes of the content of each meeting were sent to the European authorities for transparency. While the meetings might have been intended to be above-board, there's a fine line between proper inter-company meetings and collusive ones. The GSMA has confirmed that it has received a request for information and will respond in due course, though declined to comment any further.