March 25, 2024

CMA prepares to launch Phase 2 of its investigation of the Vodafone UK-Three UK merger

On March 22, 2024, the Competition and Markets Authority announced that it was preparing to launch Phase 2 of its investigation into the merger of Vodafone UK and Three UK, two of four major mobile network operators in the United Kingdom.  According to the CMA, Phase 2 would enable an independent panel of experts to take a more in-depth look into the merger and the potential impact it might have on consumers and businesses in the UK.  The panel would review potential problems with the merger that were identified in Phase 1, including concerns that the deal might reduce competition for new customers and affect competitive pressures that keep prices low and incentivize network operators to invest in their networks and improve mobile services.  The CMA was also concerned that smaller mobile “virtual network” operators may find it harder to negotiate good deals for their customers if the number of mobile network operators capable of hosting “virtual networks” was reduced.

When the merger was announced last year, Vodafone UK and Three UK claimed that the deal would significantly benefit customers and shorten the time it takes to deploy new technologies.  However, the CMA now considers these claims to be based on assumptions that require a more in-depth assessment.

According to the CMA, Vodafone UK and Three UK have five working days to respond with possible solutions to these concerns or the deal will be referred for Phase 2 to begin.  Phase 2 investigations typically lasts 24 weeks and, in certain circumstances, can be extended for up to 8 weeks.

CMA Press Release | CMA Vodafone Case Timetable