December 7, 2016
WASHINGTON, DC – Consumers Union, the policy and mobilization arm of Consumer Reports, today outlined its concerns with the proposed merger of AT&T and Time Warner and urged lawmakers and regulators to thoroughly examine the impacts of the deal from a consumer perspective. In a statement to the Senate Antitrust Subcommittee for its Wednesday hearing on the merger, the consumer group highlighted offerings, like zero-rating packages, which may be touted as pro-consumer, but could potentially hurt competition, limit consumer choice and even undermine net neutrality principles.
“Despite big industry claims, consumers are still waiting for the promised lower prices, better choices and other benefits that were supposed to come from the recent telecom merger mania. This latest deal is no different – big promises with little actual promise of delivering for consumers,” said Jonathan Schwantes, senior telecom policy counsel for Consumers Union. “When it comes to AT&T/Time Warner, the stakes could be even higher because it combines one of the largest wireless and video providers with one of the largest content producers. We have deep concerns that AT&T could seek to maximize the value of Time Warner’s premium content in ways that could hurt both consumers and competition.”
The consumer group noted that while this deal is a vertical, rather than horizontal merger, it creates the potential for significant harm to competition and consumers by consolidating powerful companies across the increasingly connected telecommunications and media industries.
“If approved, a combined AT&T/Time Warner will become a massive telecommunications and media company with its fingers in almost every pot. We strongly urge lawmakers and regulators alike to take a skeptical eye to this deal and to reject it if they conclude, like we have, that this is a bad deal for competition and consumers,” Schwantes said.