On the final day of Competition Tribunal hearings on 14 December, lawyers representing Rogers Communications and Shaw Communications lauded the potential benefits for Canadian consumers stemming from the proposed merger of the two cable and mobile groups, the Globe & Mail reports. The Competition Bureau has asked the tribunal to block the deal in its entirety, arguing that it would result in higher cellphone bills and worse mobile services particularly in Western Canada. Rogers and Shaw are aiming to close the merger by the end of the year, with the possibility of extending their deadline to 31 January 2023.
The Globe & Mail writes that a key issue is whether the proposed sale of Shaw’s Freedom Mobile to Quebec-based cableco/cellco Videotron would weaken Canada’s fourth-largest mobile operator, which serves customers in Western Canada – Alberta and British Columbia – plus Ontario. The Bureau argues that Videotron has no track record in Western Canada, and that separating Freedom from assets such as Shaw’s cable network and brand would hamper its competitiveness. A lawyer representing Shaw countered this argument on Wednesday by claiming that the merger of Canada’s two largest cable companies would benefit ‘millions of Canadians’ by creating a ‘new, formidable and aggressive’ competitor for Shaw’s chief rival Telus in Western Canada’s fixed broadband and pay-TV markets, adding: ‘If this transaction is allowed to proceed, Rogers will bring to bear its enormous experience, expertise, scale and resources to compete aggressively and successfully against Telus in the wireline industry throughout Western Canada.’