DOJ Antitrust Attorneys Reportedly Recommend Agency Block T-Mobile/Sprint Merger

Today, reports indicate that the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division has recommended the agency move to block the T-Mobile-Sprint merger. The reports follow Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s recent announcement of his recommended approval of the merger. If approved by both the DOJ and the FCC, the number of national wireless carriers would be reduced from four to three, leading to less competition and higher prices for consumers. Low-income and marginalized communities who disproportionately rely on T-Mobile and Sprint for affordable services may also find themselves priced out of wireless service. Common Cause filed a petition to deny formally opposing the merger.

Statement of Yosef Getachew, Director of Media and Democracy Program

“We are encouraged that reports indicate the DOJ’s expert antitrust attorneys have recommended the agency sue to block the T-Mobile-Sprint merger. The DOJ’s mandate is to examine this merger for the competitive effects it will have on the wireless market. All of the evidence in this proceeding shows that this merger is inherently illegal under antitrust law. A post-transaction T-Mobile will undoubtedly raise prices if the wireless market is reduced from four to three national carriers. Even worse, the merger would likely result in coordinated effects between three national carriers. This means consumers can expect to see higher prices and fewer competitive choices across the board. Low-income and marginalized communities who rely on prepaid services from T-Mobile and Sprint will face significant consequences if this merger is approved. Without competition in the prepaid market, T-Mobile would have all of the power and incentive to raise prices potentially displacing millions of low-income customers who have no alternative options for wireless service.

“The FCC has a broader mandate to review this merger under its public interest standard, which includes a competition analysis. Rather than actually examine the competitive impact, Chairman Pai’s recommended approval points to T-Mobile’s commitments and behavioral conditions. Not only are these commitments and conditions unenforceable and riddled with loopholes, they do nothing to address the blatant competitive harms the merger poses to consumers.

“Our democracy depends on a competitive marketplace where all Americans have access to robust and affordable broadband services. There are no benefits to competition in a marketplace where Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile are allowed to call of the shots. We are hopeful that Assistant Attorney General Delrahim will follow on the advice of the Antitrust Division and block this anti-competitive transaction.”