Rogers-Shaw Approval is ‘Failure of Every Promise’ by Feds to Lower Prices: PIAC

The Public Interest Advocacy Centre (PIAC), a consumer advocacy group based out of Ottawa, today condemned the federal Competition Tribunal’s decision to dismiss the Competition Bureau’s application to block Rogers’ proposed $26 billion takeover of Shaw Communications after a weekslong trial.

Canada’s competition watchdog was effectively the last regulator opposing the Rogers-Shaw merger, arguing that it would increase prices and decrease competition. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) already approved the deal back in March.

Rogers and Shaw still require Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Canada to sign off on the union, but Industry Minister François-Philippe Champagne all but reaffirmed his approval in October, contingent on Shaw-owned Freedom Mobile and its licenses being sold to Quebecor’s Vidéotron.

“Consumers now face a decade of competitive winter, with higher cellphone, home Internet, cable, satellite and Internet TV and home phone prices,” said John Lawford, PIAC’s Executive Director and General Counsel.

“This Decision represents a failure of every promise of the federal government to lower prices, every promise of the competition regulator to block the merger and improve competition in telecommunications and the failure of the quasi-judicial overseer, the Competition Bureau to see the issue from a consumer viewpoint as well.”

PIAC also called for improvements to the Competition Act, which fellow consumer advocacy organization OpenMedia said earlier today “favours the formation of monopolies.”

Specifically, the organization wants to see changes to the Act that would assist the Competition Bureau in opposing major mergers affecting consumer welfare, including a repeal of the “efficiencies defence,” which hinges on the potential benefit to the economy of cost savings from merging two businesses — most of which usually come from job cuts.

The Competition Tribunal released a summary of its ruling on Thursday, with a more detailed decision expected in a couple of days. PIAC said it, together with the National Pensioners Federation (NPF), will study the Tribunal’s full decision when available and consider responses and options on behalf of consumers and seniors.

The Competition Bureau has 30 days to appeal the Tribunal’s decision in the Federal Court of Appeal. In addition, the Bureau can also seek a stay to prevent the Rogers-Shaw merger from closing until the appeal can be heard.

Rogers and Shaw, meanwhile, have extended the deadlines for their merger and the Freedom-Vidéotron sale to January 31, 2023, hoping to close both transactions by then.

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