ROME (Reuters) -An Italian court has annulled fines totalling 228 million euros ($271 million) slapped on Italy's top four phone operators last year for collectively agreeing to raise their prices, rulings published on Monday showed.
Italy's antitrust regulator had fined Telecom Italia, Vodafone, CK Hutchison's unit Wind Tre and Swisscom's Fastweb for agreeing to raise tariffs after being forced to scrap a billing scheme based on 28 days rather than a full calendar month.
But an administrative court in Rome said in the rulings, seen by Reuters, that the antitrust authority had not shown the companies were not acting within their rights.
The rulings prompted quick reaction from consumer groups.
"It's a disgrace! That the legal system in this country doesn't work is well known but we've now touched the bottom," Massimiliano Dona, president of consumer association Unione Nazionale Consumatori, was quoted by Italian media as saying.
A spokesman for Wind Tre said in emailed comments that the court ruling showed it had acted in compliance with regulations and adopted commercial practices independent of its rivals.
TIM, Vodafone and Fastweb declined to comment.
($1 = 0.8422 euros)
(Reporting by Marco Carta; Writing by Stephen Jewkes; Editing by Agnieszka Flak and David Clarke)