3 attacks rival mobile operators over joint payment venture

Mobile operator 3 is appealing to European regulators in a bid to block a proposed joint payments venture between rivals Vodafone, O2 and Everything Everywhere, claiming that the partnership breaks fair competition rules. The firm, which is the smallest UK operator, says that it was not invited to participate in the venture, which was formed to create a one-stop shop for operators as the mobile payments market develops. The news comes weeks ahead of the date when the three companies, who deny the claims, are due to submit their plans to the European Commission, where the proposal will be reviewed by the Office of Fair Trading.

“Instead of competing for the benefit of consumers, the three operators that hold 90% of the UK market have engaged in a cosy collaboration and closed ranks against competition,” says 3’s regulatory affairs director, Stephen Lerner. He says that competition regulators in Brussels and London should not allow the deal to go through “under any circumstances”.

Although the three firms will operate as individual businesses, the venture is designed to create an industry standard as merchants and consumers start tapping into the technology.  O2, Vodafone and Everything Everywhere say that they formed the trio to push through their plans faster and that the service and technology supporting it will be open to third parties. “The fact that other companies are not shareholders in the venture has no impact on their ability to benefit from the technology it will develop,” say the firms in a joint statement.

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