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Axon Research: Hutchison/O2 and the Commission’s dilemma

On 28 May 2020, the EU General Court annulled the European Commission’s 2016 decision blocking the proposed O2/Three merger in the UK.  This is a landmark judgment: it has significant implications for the future of telecoms consolidation in Europe, the positioning of MNOs and MVNOs in this process, and the review of major transactions by European antitrust authorities.

In this article, we provide a quick overview of the EC regulatory response to mobile consolidation until now. We then analyse the European Commission’s “theories of harm” in O2/Three and the reasons why the Court has rejected them, and conclude with a discussion of the more general implications of this latest development for the industry.