The UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) opened a threatened in-depth investigation into a proposed merger of Vodafone Group and CK Hutchison’s operations in the country, after the pair declined to offer concessions.

In a statement, the CMA announced the decision to refer the proposal for an in-depth investigation had been taken, with a deadline of 18 September 2024.

The regulator revealed the results of its initial consultation on 22 March, which outlined concerns the deal on the table would result in a substantial lessening of competition in the UK’s mobile sector, with a knock-on impact for MVNOs.

Following the release of its initial findings, Vodafone and 3 UK were given five working days to offer solutions to satisfy the CMA’s concerns, but neither took up the offer.    

While the regulator’s initial look at the deal raised questions about competition, both parties have regularly sought to push of the benefits of the alliance, including for improved competition and infrastructure investment.

In its most recent earnings statement, 3 UK CEO Robert Finnegan argued his company and Vodafone lacked the size to be credible challengers to the two “scaled players”, BT’s EE and Virgin Media O2.