‘Thousands’ of Comments Submitted Against Rogers-Shaw, Says Competition Bureau

During the second day of federal Competition Tribunal hearings on Rogers’s proposed $26 billion acquisition of Shaw Communications, the Competition Bureau said it received thousands of public comments opposing the merger — reports The Globe and Mail.

The Competition Bureau is seeking a complete block of the union over concerns it will result in less consumer choice and higher prices. According to the competition watchdog, it received more than 7,000 public comments pertaining to the Rogers-Shaw deal, with many of them expressing objections to it.

Denis Albert, who works at the Competition Bureau catering to public comments and complaints, appeared as a witness on the regulator’s behalf on Tuesday. He said the Bureau has been receiving public submissions and comments through merger forms, information requests, and complaint forms ever since Rogers and Shaw announced their merger back in March 2021.

The two merger hopefuls, however, maintain that their deal is actually “pro-competitive” as it will even the playing field between the resulting company and telecom rivals Bell Canada and Telus.

During cross-examination, Rogers and Shaw established that Albert and, by extension, the Bureau did not know how many of these public submissions came after June 2022, when the two companies proposed the sale of Shaw-owned Freedom Mobile to Quebecor’s Vidéotron as a remedy for antitrust concerns.

Crawford Smith, a lawyer for Rogers, went on to ask Albert whether the Bureau identified any of the complainants. “For example, you can’t tell us how many of those submissions came from employees of Bell or Telus?” Smith asked. One of the members comprising the panel hearing the case also inquired as to whether it’s possible for automated bots to submit public comments with the Bureau.

Matt Hatfield, director of campaigns at consumer advocacy group OpenMedia, said in an email that about 3,500 genuine, unique Canadians sent their thoughts to the Competition Bureau through his organization after it encouraged people to do in response to the watchdog’s request for comments last year.

“These people are certainly not bots – they’re unique individuals in our community … we watch for signs of automated activity attempting to misuse our tools and block it if it occurs,” Mr. Hatfield said in an e-mail.

Tribunal hearings on the Rogers-Shaw merger kicked off Monday with the Competition Bureau reiterating its position that the Freedom sale is not enough to win its approval.

The Bureau is the final obstacle standing in the way of Rogers’s planned acquisition of Shaw. Innovation, Science and Industry (ISED) Canada Minister François-Philippe Champagne reaffirmed his approval, contingent on the Freedom Mobile sale, last month, while the CRTC green-lit the deal earlier in the year.

Hearings between Rogers-Shaw and the Competition Bureau are expected to go on for at least four weeks, with oral arguments scheduled for mid-December.