Majority of UK consumers agree with European Commission decision to block O2 sale

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Lee Langford

On Wednesday 11th May 2016, the European Commission announced its decision to block Telefónica’s sale of O2 to CK Hutchison, the owner of Three; ruling that a combination of the two operators would reduce customer choice and raise prices for UK consumers.

We thought it would be interesting to check whether UK consumers agreed with this decision so we polled a nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults aged 18+ using Harris 24 and in less than 6 hours the verdict was in.

Overall, a clear majority (61%) said they would not have allowed the deal to go ahead and the finding was even more clear-cut among older consumers with 67% saying ‘no’.


There is an interesting comparison to be made by looking at current customers of the two operators that would have been most affected had the purchase gone ahead. Over two-thirds of O2 customers (68%) were not in favour of the deal whereas a majority of Three customers (57%) would have allowed it to go ahead. Evidently, it matters to consumers whether their provider is perceived to be on the front foot (purchaser) or back foot in these types of deals.

The perceived impact on prices and on customer service levels are the main reasons consumers vote either for or against the deal …

61% of those not in favour of the deal believe that greater market consolidation would result in higher prices for the consumer and 52% foresee customer service levels worsening.

Conversely, those in the pro camp are more inclined to expect lower prices (49%) and superior customer service (31%).


Of course, there has already been a significant development in the UK telecoms market in 2016 with BT’s acquisition of EE earlier in the year. Whilst this was big news at the time, we wondered whether the general public had picked up on it.
Even though we prompted survey participants with a list of seven major telecom and entertainment brands, 47% selected the wrong answer. Whilst this is perhaps not overly surprising among consumers generally, we would have anticipated much higher awareness of the purchase among EE customers … in fact, only 59% chose BT with 10% opting for Vodafone and 9% for TalkTalk.

Clearly this is some work still to do on the communications roll-out!


This study was conducted to demonstrate how quickly and effectively Harris 24 can gauge consumer opinions – in this case 1,000 responses in around 6 hours with the survey launching at 5pm, closing at 11pm and the results immediately available.

If we can help you get fast answers to your critical business issues, then please let me know on 07966 339 606.

Lee Langford


  • BT
  • CK Hutchinson
  • Harris 24
  • mobile merger
  • mobile operators
  • O2
  • Telefonica
  • Three