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Examine Orange T-Mobile merger in UK, says Which?

Orange and T-Mobile merger needs OFT review in UK

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Which? has this week called for the proposed merger of the T-Mobile UK and Orange UK mobile networks to be thoroughly scrutinised by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT).

Orange and T-Mobile announced the proposed merger of their two UK businesses in September 2009. If it goes ahead, the joint venture will shake up the market and create the UK’s biggest mobile operator with nearly 40% market share, outstripping the UK’s two current market leaders O2 and Vodafone.

See how Orange and T-Mobile compare to other mobile providers such as O2, Virgin Mobile and Vodafone for customer satisfaction with pay as you go and pay monthly contract mobile services in the Which? review of the best mobile providers.

Next steps in Orange T-Mobile merger

Although the merger between Orange and T-Mobile was proposed last year, the two companies only formally notified authorities of their plans last week.

Both Orange UK and T-Mobile UK are subsidiaries of organisations based in Europe (France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom, respectively). Because of this, the default jurisdiction for the merger lies with the European Commission.

UK merger must be considered by UK authorities

Which? believes that a European body is not best placed to consider a merger that will have such a major impact on UK mobile customers.

Because of this, Which? has asked UK competition regulator the OFT to request jurisdiction over the merger from the European Commission.

Which? principal economist John Holmes says: ‘This is a major upheaval of the mobile phone market and it will only affect UK consumers.

‘The UK’s Office of Fair Trading is the natural choice for scrutinising this merger and UK consumers deserve nothing less.’

The OFT has the remit to request jurisdiction of competition cases where a market within the UK is solely affected and remedies are best resolved in the UK.

Impact of merger for Orange and T-Mobile customers

Orange and T-Mobile have said they plan to maintain the T-Mobile UK and Orange UK brands separately for 18 months following completion of the transaction and use that time to decide the best branding options for the new venture.

But reports last week by mobile publication ‘Mobile Today’ alleged that T-Mobile plans to drop its long-standing tariffs, Combi and Flext, at the start of February, replacing them with a new range of pay monthly and Sim-only mobile tariffs.

Which? has been unable to confirm this with T-Mobile but, if true, the T-Mobile tariff changes could be the start of an even more significant shake-up for Orange and T-Mobile customers.

You can read more about the possible impact of the merger in our September 2009 news story ‘Orange and T-Mobile to join forces’.

Time to change your mobile provider?

If you’re unhappy with changes that are made to your tariff, vote with your feet. There’s lots of advice on how to do this in the Which? guide on how to choose a mobile phone tariff – and you can choose a great new handset too using Which? reviews of the best mobile phones.

If you’re still within your tie-in period, and the provider makes changes to the tariff or contract that are ‘of material detriment to you’, you can usually cancel the contract without penalty within a month of being notified.

If your mobile or broadband provider causes you problems and is reluctant to help, Which? Legal Service offers unlimited professional legal advice by telephone from experienced lawyers for less than £5 a month.

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