The OFT is looking at whether it wants to investigate the Orange/T-Mobile merger and is expected to make a decision 'within a few days,' the watchdog said.
The regulatory body began
examining the EU Commission’s scope of investigation today, after Orange and T-Mobile
put in a formal request to the EU Commission yesterday for approval of the merger.
An OFT spokeswoman said: ‘The
EU Commission has sent the OFT the scope of its investigation today and the team is
now looking at it.’ She added that the OFT expects to make its decision ‘within
a few days’.
The OFT can only request a UK investigation if it believes the merger could
impact on the UK
telecoms market. However, the final decision on whether the OFT can run a
parallel investigation into the merger rests with the EU Commission.
Any OFT inquiry is expected
to delay the merger, since the OFT will have to spend time consulting with
interested parties in the UK.
If the OFT does not seek an
inquiry, the EU Commission investigation is expected to conclude by February
15. However if the OFT is granted permission to hold its own enquiry, delays
are expected, since the OFT will have to consult with interested UK parties.
Vodafone, 3 and O2 have all
voiced their concerns over the proposed merger, along with Which? Consumer Focus and the Communications
They are calling for the
OFT to conduct an investigation into the merger, to protect the
interests of UK
consumers. They are also concerned that any merger would leave T-Mobile/Orange with a
disproportionate amount of 1800MHz spectrum, which they say will stifle competition.