E-minister squashes 3G refund rumours

The industry was awash with rumours yesterday that the Government would slash the hefty Pounds 22.5bn bill held by the big five mobile firms – BT, Orange, Vodafone, Hutchinson and France Telecom – for the costly 3G licences.

But ecommerce minister Patricia Hewitt burst the bubble, saying that any such move by the Government ‘would undermine the integrity of all future auctions’.

After outlining the fact that the whole auction process last year had been run under ‘clear and transparent rules” she said: ‘You cannot have an auction for licences and then, long after you award them, say things have changed and we are going to change the terms of the auction.’

‘Imagine the reaction if we had sold off the licences cheaply in a weak market then came back when the market picked up and demanded double the fee,’ she added.


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