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Cable.co.uk comments on O2 and Three merger being blocked by the European Commission

  • Proposed merger of mobile operators O2 and Three has been blocked by the European Commission
  • The Commission had concerns UK mobile customers would have had less choice and paid higher prices if O2 and Three formed a single company
  • The ruling will prevent consumer mobile contract prices from spiralling out of control, says Dan Howdle

Wednesday 11 May 2016: The European Commission has confirmed today that it has blocked the proposed acquisition of O2 by Hutchison (owner of Three) to create a single mobile operator.

The Commission, which has been investigating the proposals since October 2015, had strong concerns that UK mobile customers would have had less choice and paid higher prices as a result of the takeover, and that the deal would have harmed innovation in the mobile sector.

The decision follows research by Ofcom published in March which suggested that the cost of mobile phone contracts could increase by up to 20% if the merger of O2 and Three went ahead.

The European Commission press release is available here

Commenting on Ofcom's findings, Dan Howdle, consumer telecoms expert at broadband comparison site Cable.co.uk, said:

“When EE was formed from Orange and T-Mobile in 2010 it reduced the number of network operators in the UK from five to four, a number still regarded by Ofcom and the European Commission as able to provide a competitive enough marketplace to ensure reasonable pricing to UK mobile customers.

“Unfortunately, research by Ofcom has suggested that a reduction of four network providers to three will potentially send mobile contract prices skyrocketing.

"Likely, this will feel staggeringly unfair to O2 and Three, having watched as Orange and T-Mobile were allowed to do exactly what they are being denied, and then go on to become the dominant force in the UK mobile market.

“This ruling will almost certainly prevent any future merger attempts by UK network operators."

Notes to editors

If using our research and/or commentary we would deeply appreciate a link either to this page or to https://www.cable.co.uk

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What is Cable.co.uk?

Cable.co.uk is a broadband, TV and phone comparator, unique news source and consumer champion.

Dan Howdle has been plugged into the attitudes of UK broadband, TV and mobile customers for over two decades. Having spent 12 years at the coalface of consumer telecoms research, initiating and running projects both nationally and internationally on behalf of the biggest players in the industry. Dan is now Director of Communications and in-house consumer telecoms expert for Cable.co.uk.

An experienced broadcaster, commentator and writer who frequently appears on BBC TV and radio, ITV, Sky and in the national papers and their websites, Dan leads a team of journalists and communications folk who spend their days researching and reporting on problems faced by UK broadband, TV and mobile customers both on an individual and macro level.

Dan campaigns on many issues currently facing consumers of broadband, TV and mobile products in the UK. These include, but are not limited to: Rural broadband provision; mobile coverage; broadband, TV and mobile customer contract issues; broadband and mobile broadband speeds; switching and money-saving; infrastructural challenges; pricing, changes and structures; shifts in technology and the marketplace; telecoms regulation, policy and law; fines, adjudications and policy changes; mergers and closures of UK providers; annual financials and more.

Dan has advised Ofcom on issues surrounding service quality. He also administers and adjudicates the yearly Broadband Service Quality Awards and sits on the panel of judges for the Internet Service Providers Association annual awards.

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