Panel Raises Concerns Over Orange/T-Mobile Merger

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelance and long standing contributor to TechWeek Europe

A consumer group has expressed its unease over the European Commission’s approval of the T-Mobile/Orange merger without a detailed investigation

The Communications Consumer Panel has responded to the European Commission’s decision to approve the T-Mobile/Orange merger, without a detailed phase 2 investigation.

The Communications Consumer Panel said that the conditions attached to the merger are designed to address some of the consumer concerns raised by the panel, but without seeing the Commission’s detailed analysis it warned that it was not possible to say whether the merger will be good for UK consumers.

“UK consumers have up to now benefited from the choice, innovation and low prices that result from a competitive mobile market and we want to see this continue,” said Panel Chair Anna Bradley.

“There may be advantages to clearing the merger at this early stage, but it also carries risks for consumers. If the decision-making process had involved a more detailed and open investigation this would have allowed greater scrutiny of the merger’s impact and given consumers more confidence in the outcome.”

“It is now incumbent on T-Mobile and Orange to proceed with the merger with minimum disruption and confusion for their customers,” she added.

Communications Consumer Panel

The Communications Consumer Panel had outlined its concerns about the proposed merger in a letter to the European Commission back in December.

The Communications Consumer Panel is an independent body that was established to advise Ofcom and other bodies on the consumer interest in the markets it regulates.

The decision by the EC to follows the news that the parent companies (France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom) had offered to sell off part of their combined radio spectrum in exchange of EC approval of the deal. Both parents said they were prepared to relinquish up to 25 percent of the spectrum they hold at the 1800 MHz bandwidth – which is capable of supporting 4G wireless technology. They have also offered some concessions over network sharing to 3, the UK’s smallest operator.

The Communications Consumer Panel did not respond to eWEEK Europe UK’s interview request at the time of writing.