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Consumer Reports: As FCC commissioners signal support for Sprint-T-Mobile, Justice should step up and block deal

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Consumer Reports today repeated its call for the Justice Department to block the proposed merger of wireless giants Sprint and T-Mobile, following statements by Federal Communications Commission chairman Ajit Pai and FCC commissioner Brendan Carr in favor of the merger.  The $26 billion deal would combine the third and fourth largest U.S. telecom carriers.  The two companies have reportedly offered to make certain concessions in order to win approval of the deal.

George Slover, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports, said, “This merger would do nothing to advance innovation or bring any improvements for consumers. It would simply mean fewer choices for consumers, higher prices, and lower quality.  While some FCC commissioners are signaling support for the deal, the Justice Department has its own authority under the antitrust laws, and Justice should step up and block it.”

Slover, who testified before Congress in opposition to the Sprint-T-Mobile merger in 2018, added, “Reducing competition and the healthy business incentives that flow from it would be a big setback.  Consumers will be worse off, and so will every business that depends on access to the nationwide wireless networks to reach consumers.  This high level of concentration in our marketplace is harmful, despite what we always hear from the corporate giants seeking to get even bigger and more powerful by merging.”

Jonathan Schwantes, senior policy counsel for Consumer Reports, said, “Conditions won’t fix this merger. Spinning off prepaid phone service providers doesn’t do anything. Those providers are utterly dependent on the nationwide networks, just like everyone else.  And the claim that the merger will expedite the new 5G technology is the same claim made for the last wireless merger, for the last new technology, 4G.  When that merger between AT&T and T-Mobile was blocked, the companies went to work independently, in competition. That’s what should happen here.”

Schwantes added, “T-Mobile has never shown much interest in expanding into rural America. And the small wireless companies that provide that service are utterly dependent on access to the nationwide wireless networks to make it work. The harm to competition from this merger will hit those rural wireless companies — and rural America — in exactly the same way — fewer choices, higher prices, lower quality, less reliability.”

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Contact: David Butler, dbutler@consumer.org, 202-719-5916

Consumer Reports is an independent, nonprofit membership organization that works side by side with consumers to create a fairer, safer, and healthier world. For 80 years, CR has provided evidence-based product testing and ratings, rigorous research, hard-hitting investigative journalism, public education, and steadfast policy action on behalf of consumers’ interests. Unconstrained by advertising or other commercial influences, CR has exposed landmark public health and safety issues and strives to be a catalyst for pro-consumer changes in the marketplace. From championing responsible auto safety standards, to winning food and water protections, to enhancing healthcare quality, to fighting back against predatory lenders in the financial markets, Consumer Reports has always been on the front lines, raising the voices of consumers.