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Three owner Hutch lobs sueball at EU over failed O2 buy

Compensation please

The owner of mobile network Three UK, CK Hutchison, has lodged a legal challenge against the European Commission. The Telegraph, which broke the story, says a filing has been filed with the General Court (formerly the Court of the First Instance), after the European Competition Commission blocked the acquisition by Hutchison.

The plans of the Hong Kong-based ports, utilities and telecoms giant was thwarted by the Commission despite offering unprecedented concessions, including a fourth MVNO. Brussels argued that the merger would reduce competition in the market and ultimately harm consumers.

But critics queried the logic, arguing that Brussels has left UK punters with a choice of one dominant telecoms company, and three “dwarves”.

The strongest argument for approving the merger is that the UK’s problem isn’t high prices, it’s poor coverage. EE’s scale and spectrum advantages leave the other three main rivals looking for niches in which to differentiate themselves.

The Telegraph’s Christopher Williams notes that a successful decision won’t revive the merger, as plans have moved on. But it may yield Hutch some compensation. Which ultimately comes from the taxpayer.

With so much at stake, it’s likely to be appealed all the way up to the CJEU. ®

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