Some days ago, Vodafone Malta and Melita Ltd announced that they intend to merge as one telcom provider. We believe that this is bad news for local consumers as this will continue to limit the number of operators and thus competition.
Thus that local consumers not only do not have a real choice but to add insult to injury have got to pay very high prices when compared with the prices other consumers have to pay in other EU countries. Reducing the number of suppliers will make the situation much worse.
Consequently, we wrote to the Malta Competition and Consumer Affairs Authority, MCCAA, (see below), the regulator empowered to approve such a merger, to register that the Consumers’ Association is against this merger as of now. Therefore we would like to register ourselves as objectors to the said proposal and expect the Competition Office to keep us informed on the process including keeping us informed on its market analysis which we assume in the light of the media declarations would have already kick-started.
We believe that the Competition Division in its evaluation should give special importance to the impact such a merger would have on consumer choice and publish a consumer impact assessment study especially the impact such a merger would have on ordinary consumers especially the prices that these consumers would have to pay for telephony, internet and tv services. Such a study would have to compare the prices that consumers would pay under the present and the suggested scenario.
In the event that the MCCAA would approve this merger, we expect that the MCCAA to give those consumers under contract with Vodafone to opt out free from their contract. The reason for this recommendation is that when choosing to subscribe to a service offered by this company consumers chose the services offered by Vodafone over those provided by either Go or Melita. From available information it seems that “Vodafone” would simply be a brand name as Melita will have a 51% majority shareholding in the new setup. Therefore in reality consumers who chose Vodafone will end up having a contract with Melita, something which they chose not to in the first place.
We also expect that the MCCAA would then assume its responsibilities by making bi-annually market study to ensure that none of the remaining operators are exploiting the resultant dominant position to the detriment of the consumer. Needless to say, we expect that such studies should be made public.