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CMA Launches Formal Investigation Into Vodafone / Three merger

Investigation will examine the potential impact the proposed deal could have on competition for consumers and businesses


CMA Launches Formal Investigation Into Vodafone / Three Merger
CMA Launches Formal Investigation Into Vodafone / Three Merger

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has today started its Phase 1 investigation looking into Vodafone UK’s joint venture agreement with Three UK.


The deal would combine the companies’ telecommunications operations under one single network provider.


Having now received the required pre-notification evidence and information from both Vodafone UK and Three UK, as well as early views from stakeholders, the CMA is starting its formal investigation. 


The CMA now has up to 40 working days to assess the deal as part of a Phase 1 investigation. This review is designed to identify whether the deal may lead to a ‘substantial lessening of competition’ and – if so – whether a more in-depth Phase 2 investigation is required.


Sarah Cardell, Chief Executive of the CMA, said:

This deal would bring together two of the major players in the UK telecommunications market, which is critical to millions of everyday customers, businesses and the wider economy. The CMA will assess how this tie-up between rival networks could impact competition before deciding next steps. We now have 40 working days to complete this formal Phase 1 investigation, before publishing our findings and any next steps.

The CMA’s remit, by law, is to assess the potential impact of a merger on competition. It cannot consider other potential effects that a merger might have, for example, on access to personal data. National security concerns are a matter for the UK government, which may choose to intervene under the National Security and Investment Act if it finds concerns.


More information on the CMA’s investigation can be found on the Vodafone / CK Hutchison JV case page.


Notes to Editors

  1. Vodafone UK is owned by Vodafone Group Plc. Three UK is owned by CK Hutchison Holdings Limited.

  2. The 4 mobile network operators in the UK are Vodafone UK, Three UK, BT/EE and Virgin Media O2.

  3. The CMA can only open a formal investigation when it has the information and evidence it needs from the merging parties to assess the effects of a merger. The amount of time it takes to gather this information varies from case to case depending on the complexity of the issues and how quickly the parties provide the required information.

  4. The CMA is now inviting views by 9 February 2024 on how the merger could affect competition. This follows the preliminary invitation to comment (ITC) launched in October 2023. Under the CMA’s rules a Phase 1 merger investigation must be completed within 40 working days. The statutory deadline for this investigation is Friday 22 March 2024.

  5. If the CMA finds the merger could lead to a substantial lessening of competition, then it can refer it for a more in-depth Phase 2 merger investigation. Phase 2 investigations last between 24 and 32 weeks and are led by an independent panel of experts.

  6. As part of its normal merger review process in a regulated sector, the CMA has been engaging with Ofcom, the sectoral regulator which oversees mobile communications.

  7. For media enquiries, contact the CMA press office on 020 3738 6460 or press@cma.gov.uk.

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