New York Attorney General Letitia James and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra today filed a multi-state lawsuit, along with eight other State Attorneys General to halt the proposed merger of telecom giants T-Mobile and Sprint. The complaint, filed in New York federal court in coordination with Colorado, Connecticut, the District of Columbia, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Virginia, and Wisconsin alleges that the merger of two of the four largest national mobile network operators would deprive consumers of the benefits of competition and drive up prices for cellphone services.
“When it comes to corporate power, bigger isnt always better,” said Attorney General Letitia James. “The T-Mobile and Sprint merger would not only cause irreparable harm to mobile subscribers nationwide by cutting access to affordable, reliable wireless service for millions of Americans, but would particularly affect lower-income and minority communities here in New York and in urban areas across the country. Thats why we are going to court to stop this merger and protect our consumers, because this is exactly the sort of consumer-harming, job-killing megamerger our antitrust laws were designed to prevent.”
“Although T-Mobile and Sprint may be promising faster, better, and cheaper service with this merger, the evidence weighs against it,” said Attorney General Xavier Becerra. “This merger would hurt the most vulnerable Californians and result in a compressed market with fewer choices and higher prices. Today, along with New York andeightother partner states, weve filed a lawsuit to block this merger and protect the residents of our state.”
T-Mobile US Inc. and Sprint Corporation are the third and fourth largest mobile wireless networks in the U.S., and are the lower-cost carriers among the Big Four Verizon Wireless and AT&T round out the market. Intense competition, spurred in particular by T-Mobile and Sprint, has meant declining prices, increased coverage, and better quality for all mobile phone subscribers. According to the Labor Department, the average cost of mobile service has fallen by roughly 28 percent over the last decade, while mobile data consumption has grown rapidly. The merger, however, would put an end to that fierce competition, which has delivered a great number of benefits to consumers.
Currently, the average U.S. household spends approximately $1,100 annually on cellphone services.Formany families, especially those with lower incomes, even a small price increase can result in suspension or cancellation of cellphone service.
“Low- and moderate-income (LMI) New Yorkers put a greater share of their household income toward their phone bill, and when you are looking at a budget that is already stretched thin, every dollar counts,” added Mae Grote, CEO of the Financial Clinic. “Cellphones now not only give us the ability to communicate with friends and family, here and abroad, but are increasingly the way we engage with many critical services. Our customers use cellphone apps to access public information, send and receive money, manage their SNAP benefits, look for a job, and even communicate with their doctors, and maintaining competition in the market for this critical service ensures LMI consumers have the same access to quality, affordable service as the more financially secure. The Clinic is proud to advocate on behalf of the communities we serve to protect their inclusion in the modern economy.”
While T-Mobile and Sprint have made promises that their merger would offer lightning-fast speeds and increased capacity, the Attorneys Generalsinvestigation found that many of the claimed benefits were unverifiable and could only be delivered years into the future, if ever. By contrast, if the merger were to go through, the combined company would immediately have the power and incentive to raise prices, while cutting quality. In short, any theoretical efficiencies that could be realized from the merger would be outweighed by the transactions immediate harm to competition and consumers.
Additionally, the merger would harm thousands of hard-working mobile wireless independent dealers in New York and across the nation. Thetenstates are concerned that further consolidation at the carrier level would lead to a substantial loss of retail jobs, as well as lower pay for these workers in the near future.
“CWA applauds the Attorneys General and especially General Letitia James’ leadership in taking decisive action today to prevent T-Mobile and Sprint from gaining anti-competitive power at the expense of workers, customers, and communities,” added Chris Shelton, president of the Communications Workers of America (CWA). “Reducing the number of national wireless carriers from four to three would mean higher prices for consumers, job loss for retail wireless workers, and downward pressure on all wireless workers’ wages. The states action today is a welcome development for American workers and consumers, and a reminder that regulators must take labor market concerns seriously when evaluating mergers.”
Before filing suit, the states gave significant consideration to T-Mobile and Sprints claims of increased coverage in rural areas. However, T-Mobile has yet to provide plans to build any new cell sites in areas that would not otherwise be served by either T-Mobile or Sprint. Asstated in the complaint, the U.S. previously won the race to LTE as a direct result of vigorous competition among wireless carriers. Finally, continued competition, not concentration, is most likely to spur rapid development of a nationwide 5G network and other innovations.
“This merger is bad for competition, and it is bad for consumers, especially those living in or traveling through rural areas, who will experience fewer choices, price increases, and substandard service”, stated Carri Bennet, general counsel for the Rural Wireless Association. “We are pleased that the New York Attorney General, along withninestates have filed their lawsuit to block the merger. The process at the FCC has not been transparent and the FCC appears to be blindly accepting New T-Mobiles words as truth.”
The complaint was filed under seal in United States District Court for the Southern District of New York.
T-Mobile currently has more than 79 million subscribers, and is a majority-owned subsidiary of Deutsche Telekom AG. Sprint Corp. currently has more than 54 million subscribers, and is a majority-owned subsidiary of SoftBank Group Corp.
The matter is being handled by Antitrust Bureau Chief BeauBuffier; Deputy Antitrust Bureau Chief Elinor R. Hoffmann; Chief Economist Peter Malaspina; Assistant Attorneys General Michael Jo, Jeremy R. Kasha, Beatriz Marques, Irina C. Rodrguez, AlexanderScolnik, James Yoon; Data Analyst WilliamGreenlaw; and Chief Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Christopher D’Angelo.