EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager cautioned that consumer pricing must be protected following a recent spate of M&A activity in Europe.
Speaking with the Financial Times, Vestager (pictured) also questioned whether consolidation could encourage greater network investment.
On the first point, she made clear her brief: “I have one interest and that is to make sure that European consumers — that being citizens or businesses — can enjoy relatively innovative markets at affordable prices.”
Recent M&A activity has reduced the number of competitors in Austria, Ireland and Germany. All three deals were approved with conditions by Vestager’s predecessor Joaquin Almunia.
The newcomer’s inbox is no less inundated with major deals that would reduce the number of operators in other European markets.
In the UK, Hutchison Whampoa would like to acquire O2 and merge it with its 3 UK unit, while Telenor and TeliaSonera are planning to merge mobile operations in Denmark.
Other telecoms deals include Orange’s proposed purchase of Jazztel, a leading broadband player in Spain.
And Vestager has a different type of challenge with fixed incumbent BT’s proposed acquisition of EE, the UK’s largest operator. The deal would create a major force in converged fixed-mobile services in the UK, much to the concern of smaller rivals including Vodafone.
Separately, she was asked whether consolidation increased network investment, to which she answered: “Actually I have seen a number of examples of the opposite.”
She added: “So far it seems as if it is still competition that will lead to investment and not the other way round.”