FRANCE - The European Commission (EC) has launched an investigation into the way France Télécom's pension scheme for state employees was financed following its privatisation in 1997.
Investigators will look at whether the retirement benefit burden, which France Télécom claimed was excessive, was unfairly relaxed by the government which exempted the company from paying social security contributions against the unemployment risk of its public sector employees, since their jobs were guaranteed by the state.
This reduction in retirement costs and exemption from social security contributions was felt by the complainant to have constituted 'incompatible state aid', although the French government has argued the measure simply removed 'a structural disadvantage' to France Télécom and as such did not breach EU rules.
Neelie Kroessaid, competition commissioner, EC, said: "While we welcome structuralised reforms designed to assist incumbent monopolists in adapting to a liberalised market, we must ensure that these reforms do not distort competition between operators to an extent contrary to the common interest."
Jonathan Stapleton asks whether newly-accredited professional trustees should be a statutory fixture on pension scheme boards.
Savers are being warned by the Insolvency Service to guard their pension pots from investment scammers and negligent trustees as it winds up 24 companies.
Respondents say they should only be required in certain situations as the system is not broken.