EC accepts CMA’s request to review proposed O2-Virgin merger

20 Nov 2020

With the British competition regulator the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) having made a formal request to the EC to review the proposed merger of mobile network operator (MNO) O2 UK and multi-play provider Virgin Media last month, it has now been confirmed that this request has been accepted.

Confirming the development in a press release, the British government said the case will be transferred to allow CMA’s investigation to begin immediately. Meanwhile, it was noted that O2 UK and Virgin Media have requested that the CMA move quickly to the in-depth ‘Phase 2’ stage of its review through a ‘fast-track’ process. In most merger cases, a full ‘Phase 1’ investigation is needed to determine whether a deal can be cleared or whether further scrutiny is required, but merging companies can ask for the CMA’s investigation to be moved more quickly to the second phase, where it is clear from an early stage that the deal requires an in-depth examination. The agency has said it expects to accept this request unless it receives any valid objections to the use of the fast-track process. In terms of the initial steps, the CMA is now inviting views by 26 November on how the merger could affect competition, and on the companies’ request for a fast track process.

Commenting, Andrea Coscelli, chief executive at the CMA, said: ‘We welcome the EC’s decision to transfer the proposed deal between Virgin and O2 to the CMA for investigation. These are incredibly important UK markets, that continue to evolve, and the deal needs to be carefully reviewed to make sure that consumers are protected. We have worked closely with the EC so far and we will build on the work that has already been carried out to make sure that the case can be investigated as quickly and efficiently as possible.’

United Kingdom, Liberty Global, O2 UK, Telefonica, Virgin Media