EU to investigate UK mobile payments joint venture


European Union antitrust regulators said on Friday they will examine whether a joint venture between the three largest British telecoms companies on mobile payment technologies and advertising falls foul of competition rules.

In March, Vodafone (London), Telefonica-owned O2 (Madrid, Spain) and Everything Everywhere, which is owned by Deutsche Telekom (Bonn, Germany) and France Telecom (Paris), submitted their plans to the European Commission and have answered questions from Brussels since then.

The four month-long investigation will seek to determine whether the mobile operators plans to work together goes too far to shape the emerging areas of mobile payments as well as mobile advertising.

"We need to make sure that competing services can keep emerging on this market, so that incentives to innovate remain and customers get the best mobile commerce services at the best cost," EU competition chief Joaquin Almunia said in a statement on Friday.

The companies said they remained confident their venture would go through.

"The embryonic nature of the mobile payments market in particular means that more time is needed to fully consider the proposed joint venture's plans for a mobile wallet," the three companies said.

The operators say they need to join forces to help all their customers gain access to the new services they are developing as well as to rival technology firms like Google (Mountain View, Calif., USA), Apple (Cupertino, Calif., USA) and Facebook (Menlo Park, Calif, USA), which are also building services for mobile payments.

These companies have gained high advertising revenues from mining and analyzing web users browsing histories and sending them ads based on this information, a practice telecoms companies would also like to cash in on.

Critics of the joint venture on mobile payments say the move will put them ahead of any competing offers because they would have access to a majority of British mobile phone subscribers and their data.


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