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European Commission won’t let UK rule over O2/3 merger

The European Commission has said it will not refer the planned acquisition of Telefónica UK by Hutchison to UK competition authorities because, it says, the EC is “better placed to ensure consistency in the application of merger control rules in the mobile telecommunications sector across the European Economic Area (EEA)”.

In November Telecoms.com reported that The European Commission had opened an ‘in-depth’ investigation into the proposed acquisition of Telefónica UK by Hutchison in case the consolidation could be interpreted as harmful to competition, as defined under EU Merger Regulations.

The UK competition authority had submitted a request under Article 9(2) (a) of the EU Merger Regulation, which allows a Member State to request the Commission to refer all or part of the assessment of a case to it. The Commission then decides which authority is better placed to deal with the case at hand.

The EC has ruled that it is better placed to deal with the transaction of the proposed Hutchison 3G UK/Telefónica UK takeover, given its extensive experience and ability to ensure consistency in the application of merger control rules in the mobile comms across the EEA. The EC has recently carried out merger investigations in mobile sectors in Ireland , Germany and Denmark, mobile and fixed telco cases in Germany and Spain and fixed telecoms in the UK, Ireland and Holland.

The Commission said, in a statement, that it will continue to cooperate closely with the UK competition authority in the assessment of the case, which has a deadline of April 18th 2016 for a final decision.

According to Margrethe Vestager, the Commissioner in charge of competition policy the Telefonica takeover could lead to higher prices, less choice and less innovation for mobile customers in the UK.


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