Europe take Spain to court for failure to recover incompatible TV aid
It is referring the country to suspend all ongoing payments for its operation and maintenance.
In October 2014 and June 2013, the Commission adopted two decisions finding that State aid granted by Spain to finance the transition from analogue to digital terrestrial television (DTT) in remote areas of, respectively, Castilla-la-Mancha and the rest of Spain was incompatible with EU State aid rules.
Under the principle of technological neutrality such public financing must be available to all transmission platforms, including terrestrial, satellite, cable or the internet, without discrimination. The Spanish measures only benefitted terrestrial digital technology, in breach of this principle.
They also discriminated between different terrestrial operators. As a result, some terrestrial operators received a selective advantage over their competitors.
The restrictions may have deprived consumers of possible benefits, such as more choice and lower prices. The Commission decisions therefore ordered that the subsidies have to be paid back to the relevant Spanish authorities.
More than three and a half years after the first decision and more than two years after the second one, the Spanish authorities have only recovered a small fraction of the aid (approximately 2% of the estimated amount under the first decision and nothing under the second one).
Spain also continues to pay for the operation and maintenance of parts of the DTT network, in breach of the decisions.
As a result of the delay in implementing the decisions, the distortion of competition in the relevant market continues.
The Commission is particularly concerned by the continuous payments of illegal subsidies to the detriment of other operators.
The Commission has therefore decided to refer Spain to the Court of Justice. ■
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