Virgin and O2 merger investigation fast-tracked

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has agreed to fast-track its investigation into the proposed Virgin and O2 merger.

The decision came after a request by Virgin and O2 for the CMA to move quickly to the in-depth Phase 2 stage of the investigation.

For 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 are able to ask for a ‘fast track’ where it is clear from an early stage that the deal requires an in-depth investigation.

It was announced last month that the authority would investigate a proposed merger between Virgin Media and O2 because of its potential impact on competition in UK telecommunications.

The CMA has said it is concerned that following the merger, Virgin and O2 may have an incentive to raise prices or reduce the quality of their wholesale services, ultimately leading to a worse deal for UK consumers.

The Phase 2 investigation will be overseen by an inquiry group chosen from the CMA’s independent panel members. Over the course of the investigation, the group will gather evidence from a range of sources.

Over the next few weeks, the group is to publish an issues statement setting out in detail the aspects it expects to investigate.

Interested parties will have the opportunity to present their views on the merger and the issues to be examined by the group.

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