UK Government approves $44bn O2, Virgin Media merger
The UK’s antitrust watchdog, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) gave the green light this morning to a potential merger between two of the UK’s biggest carriers.
Orchestrated by parent companies Liberty Global and Telefonica, the merger will see the creation of a new company that brings together O2 and Virgin Media, two of the country’s leading telecom operators with a combined customer base of 46mn video, broadband and mobile subscribers, including 3.7mn pay-TV subscribers, 5.3mn broadband customers, 4.6mn fixed-line voice subscribers, and 32mn mobile subscribers.
“This is a watershed moment in the history of telecommunications in the UK as we are now cleared to bring real choice where it hasn’t existed before, while investing in fibre and 5G that the UK needs to thrive,” said Mike Fries, CEO of Liberty Global, and José Maria Alvarez-Pallete, CEO of Telefonica - speaking presumably in haunting unity at a press conference this Thursday. In a joint video statement made by himself and Fries, Alvarez-Pallete added that "we now have a fantastic opportunity to transform the UK's connectivity landscape."
The merger was announced in May of last year and received provisional government approval last month. The CMA cleared the transaction this morning with no remedies, meaning that the 50:50 merger is expected to close by June 1, 2021.
The merger has been valued at $44bn and is expected to rapidly create synergies between the two companies to the tune of £6.2bn. The new entity is expected to report revenues in excess of £11bn in its first year of operations.
According to a statement from the CMA, the merger isn’t expected to result in higher costs due to reduced competition in the market. The department was “initially concerned that, following the merger, Virgin and O2 could raise prices or reduce the quality of these wholesale services,” which in turn would force other competitors in the UK market like Three to lower the quality of their own services in order to recoup costs.
Martin Coleman, chair of the CMA Panel Inquiry, said that “It was important to make sure that this merger would not leave these people worse off. That’s why we conducted an in-depth investigation.”
He concluded that, “After looking closely at the deal, we are reassured that competition amongst mobile communications providers will remain strong and it is therefore unlikely that the merger would lead to higher prices or lower quality services.”
UK NFIB issues warning over mobile phone scams
The UK’s National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has issued a warning to mobile phone users after being made aware of an ongoing mobile scam involving customers being “cold-called” by individuals impersonating employees of mobile network operators and suppliers.
What is the mobile network scam and what happens?
According to the organisation, the scams include offers of early handset upgrades, or new contracts with significant discounts. The NFIB says that, once scammers have convinced the customers that the deals are genuine, they then ask for online mobile account credentials, home addresses, bank account details, logins, and passwords.
Using these details, the suspects then place orders with genuine companies on the victims’ behalf, before selecting a different handset to the one requested, and sending it to that victim’s home address.
Once the victims have received the handsets, the suspect then explains that it was made in error, instructing them to send the handset to a different address not associated with the company they claim to be calling from. The NFIB says that these addresses are normally residential.
The final stage involves the scammers intercepting the supposedly returned devices before ceasing all contact with the victim, leaving them with no phone and no mobile network contract.
Since January 2020, the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau has received over 300 reports of this particular scam, reporting losses exceeding £86,000. So what can you do to protect yourself?
How to protect yourself from a mobile network scam
- If the caller asks about mobile upgrades and network contracts, hang up without giving out any personal information if you are unsure as to whether the call is genuine or if you think that the person calling is not from the company they claim to be from.
- Only contact your mobile network provider using a number that you know is correct. But what if you don’t know? There are usually contact details such as this and including a phone number on the operator’s official website.
- If you receive a device or handset that you didn’t order, contact the genuine sender immediately, the details of which will be displayed on the parcel or package the device was shipped in.
- NEVER post a device to an unknown address. Genuine employees of mobile networks would not ask you to do this and would always send a jiffy bag or empty package for you to return the device without any additional charges.
Any incidents can be reported to Action Fraud at http://www.actionfraud.police.uk or by calling 0300 123 2040.