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German Competitors Decry Phone Fees

January 2, 1998

FRANKFURT, Germany (AP) _ New competitors in Germany’s household phone market complained to regulators Friday over fees the former monopoly Deutsche Telekom plans to charge for switching to another carrier.

The companies Mannesmann Arcor and Otelo argue that the $53 fee for customers to switch long-distance service is too high and will hinder competition. Barriers to entering the market were lowered with the new year.

Another company expected to be a major competitor, Talkline, said it would absorb those fees for its new customers.

Klaus-Dieter Scheurle, head of the agency that regulates the communications industry, said approval for Deutsche Telekom’s proposed fee was pending, and that the company could not start charging it yet.

Dozens of companies plan to enter the private long-distance market this year, but few actually have begun to enlist customers.

Deutsche Telekom spokesman Hans Ehnert said the company tried unsuccessfully to negotiate deals in which competitors would pick up the transfer charges. For now, customers are to be charged to switch, he said.

But Talkline spokesman Frank Klabunde said Telekom never negotiated such fees with his company. Arcor marketing manager Elmar Huelsmann said his company has asked for a quick judgment on the issue from regulators.

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