Three in formal challenge over ‘unfair’ joint mobile marketing venture
Mobile phone network provider Three has appealed to the European Commission over what it sees as anti-competitive marketing activity on the part of its main rivals. In a deposition to the Commission’s Directorate-General for Competition, Three is claiming to have been deliberately and unfairly excluded from a planned mobile marketing investment venture agreed back in June between mobile operators Vodafone, Everything Everywhere, and O2.
Under the proposed agreement, the operators would act jointly as a ‘one stop shop’ for marketing, advertising and retail firms; collaborating on the selling of advertising over their networks, and working together on launching an innovative payment method whereby a mobile is used to deduct funds from the user’s account simply by swiping the device over a barcode at a till.
Regulatory affairs director for Three, Stephen Lerner, says that his company’s exclusion from the proposed joint collaboration not only undermines Three’s competitiveness in the UK but is also misleading for the venture’s potential business customers in that it ‘denies the initiative’s claimed ambition to be a ‘’one stop shop’’ for m-commerce’ (mobile commerce).
Three’s protests at the planned joint venture are viewed by industry analysts as having potential consequence, given that the new set-up is understood to be seen as constituting a merger in the eyes of the Commission, for which the latter will need to grant its official permission.
The parties behind the initiative however claim that although not a shareholder in the venture, Three would still be able to participate in the scheme.