Billmonitor calls for CMA investigation of UK B2B mobile market

UK price comparison service Billmonitor is calling on the UK Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) to investigate the business mobile provider market in the wake of continued inaction from regulator Ofcom

The call comes following the release of Billmonitor’s research report, titled ‘An investigation into the B2B mobile provider ‘Wild West’’, which reveals significant cost differences between the ‘big three’ providers for the average SME customer, in a market characterised by severe uncompetitiveness hampered by a lack of transparency and proper oversight.

This builds on research released in February 2018 which showed that that nine out of ten UK SMEs significantly overspend on their mobile bills, further demonstrating unfairness and inefficiency in the business mobile market that has left UK SMEs out of pocket with no-one to turn to for support.

Speaking on the report, Billmonitor’s founder and director Dr Stelios Koundouros said:

“The fact that one provider can charge firms with similar average usage significantly more than another is one more symptom of a broken market that needs fixing. As we move into the post-Brexit era, empowering the UK’s SMEs with fairness and transparency – as the CMA successfully did for the energy market, whose uncompetitiveness was only half as costly for SMEs – should be a key point on the government’s agenda.”  

Only one in ten SMEs get a fair deal from their providers, while Ofcom turns a blind eye

Following years-long pleas from Billmonitor to provide transparency and rigorous industry wide regulation to help SMEs, Ofcom has shown little interest in acknowledging the uncompetitive market or regulating to change it. This was regardless of the fact that Billmonitor’s data suggests 16.3 per cent cost differences between the ‘big three’ providers for the average SME customer, and despite the regulator’s own data originally confirming a “15 – 20 per cent” cost difference between the ‘big three’ mobile providers, for the average SME customer in the UK mobile provider market (FOI request, February 2018).

Tommaso Valletti, Professor of Economics at Imperial College Business School and currently Chief Competition Economist of the European Commission in Brussels, said:

“Price differences of 15-20 per cent, not attributable to differential consumption patterns, indicate that a market is not close to being competitive. While generally we tend to think that competition among mobile operators is very intense for business customers, these results – again, if confirmed – depict a rather different picture, especially for SMEs.”

Of major concern is that upon the eve of our report launch, Ofcom now retracts this key figure, saying its own data “cannot now be considered reliable”, raising further suspicions of the regulator not doing its job to protect businesses from the lack of market transparency by mobile providers.

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