Dang. The Antitrust Division has teeth after all.
(Blawgletter called it in March, by the way.)
Per the WSJ, the AD sued to enjoin the deal for AT&T to acquire T-Mobile.
The pact would create the biggest, baddest, anticompetitivest wireless firm in the U.S.
The Division's press release said:
The department’s lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, seeks to prevent AT&T from acquiring T-Mobile from Deutsche Telekom AG.
“The combination of AT&T and T-Mobile would result in tens of millions of consumers all across the United States facing higher prices, fewer choices and lower quality products for mobile wireless services,” said Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole. “Consumers across the country, including those in rural areas and those with lower incomes, benefit from competition among the nation’s wireless carriers, particularly the four remaining national carriers. This lawsuit seeks to ensure that everyone can continue to receive the benefits of that competition.”
“T-Mobile has been an important source of competition among the national carriers, including through innovation and quality enhancements such as the roll-out of the first nationwide high-speed data network,” said Sharis A. Pozen, Acting Assistant Attorney General in charge of the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division. “Unless this merger is blocked, competition and innovation will be reduced, and consumers will suffer.”
Mobile wireless telecommunications services play a critical role in the way Americans live and work, with more than 300 million feature phones, smart phones, data cards, tablets and other mobile wireless devices in service today. Four nationwide providers of these services – AT&T, T-Mobile, Sprint and Verizon – account for more than 90 percent of mobile wireless connections. The proposed acquisition would combine two of those four, eliminating from the market T-Mobile, a firm that historically has been a value provider, offering particularly aggressive pricing.
According to the complaint, AT&T and T-Mobile compete head to head nationwide, including in 97 of the nation’s largest 100 cellular marketing areas. They also compete nationwide to attract business and government customers. AT&T’s acquisition of T-Mobile would eliminate a company that has been a disruptive force through low pricing and innovation by competing aggressively in the mobile wireless telecommunications services marketplace.
The NYT quoted AT&T as saying it will “vigorously contest this matter in court.”
AT&T's press release says:
We are surprised and disappointed by today’s action, particularly since we have met repeatedly with the Department of Justice and there was no indication from the DOJ that this action was being contemplated.
We plan to ask for an expedited hearing so the enormous benefits of this merger can be fully reviewed. The DOJ has the burden of proving alleged anti-competitive affects and we intend to vigorously contest this matter in court.
At the end of the day, we believe facts will guide any final decision and the facts are clear. This merger will:
- Help solve our nation’s spectrum exhaust situation and improve wireless service for millions.
- Allow AT&T to expand 4G LTE mobile broadband to another 55 million Americans, or 97% of the population;
- Result in billions of additional investment and tens of thousands of jobs, at a time when our nation needs them most.
We remain confident that this merger is in the best interest of consumers and our country, and the facts will prevail in court.
* * * *
If you like Blawgletter, will you please consider recommending us for a spot on the ABA's Blawg 100 list?