3UK claims m-commerce joint venture is anti-competitive

3UK intends to make an initial complaint to antitrust authorities in the UK and Europe regarding the proposed m-commerce joint venture between O2, Vodafone and Everything Everywhere.

The JV was announced in June, with the operators claiming it would be unique in the UK market. Intended to accelerate development and delivery of new mobile marketing and payment services, the three operators had been aiming to launch services by the end of 2011.

However, Stephen Lerner, regulatory director of 3UK told that the real aim of the JV is to eliminate the prospect of competition in the market.

“The ‘cooperation’ extends to the creation of a ‘one stop shop’, or central sales organisation for card issuers, advertisers and media agencies looking to put their cards and offers into the wallets of UK mobile subscribers,” he said.

“It is a cosy collaboration that would control nearly all mobile wallets in the UK and control and sell advertisers and card issuers’ access to its mobile subscribers. This is anti-competitive and akin to a joint selling arrangement which creates a monopoly in several markets, including mobile push advertising and mobile payments, and should not be approved under any circumstances.”

He added that, by controlling and selling access to over 90 per cent of UK mobile subscribers and their data, the three operators seek to foreclose the market to third-parties and do away with the inconvenience of competing with each other.

“It threatens to shunt the future of m-commerce onto the wrong track from the start. If allowed to proceed, the JV will damage the prospects of competition in the UK mobile market and the interests of UK mobile consumers,” Lerner concluded.

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