Mobile Network Operators

Oral Answers to Questions — Culture, Media and Sport – in the House of Commons at 9:30 am on 16th October 2014.

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Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Conservative, Amber Valley 9:30 am, 16th October 2014

What assessment he has made of the effectiveness of competition in the mobile network operators’ market.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Culture Media and Sport)

Mr Speaker, may I begin by apologising for the fact that the Secretary of State cannot be here for questions? I trust that you were appropriately informed: he is on a trip representing the Government in India.

It is for Ofcom to assess competition in the mobile communications market, and I am pleased to tell my hon. Friend that it has found the UK mobile market to be one of the most open and competitive in the world.

Photo of Nigel Mills Nigel Mills Conservative, Amber Valley

I thank the Minister for his answer, but he will know of the recent decisions by the big networks to bring their retailing in-house so that they can keep more of the profits, resulting in the closure of Phones 4u. These decisions risk reducing customer choice and raising prices. Is it not time to ask Ofcom to look at this again before we lose all our retail competitors and end up with a mobile phone market as rigged as the energy market?

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Culture Media and Sport)

It is not appropriate for me to comment on the commercial issues surrounding the decision of the owners of Phones 4u to put the company into receivership, but it is possible to purchase mobile phones not just through the operators’ shops but on the high street and from online outlets; and mobile virtual network operators are also providing a great deal of competition.

Photo of Ed Vaizey Ed Vaizey Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Business, Innovation and Skills), Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy (Jointly with Department for Culture Media and Sport)

Mr Speaker, I am incredibly grateful for your guidance. You are quite right that, with your permission, I would like to take this question with Question 3, which I also hotly anticipate. Thank you for correcting me. My eagerness got ahead of me in wishing to communicate to the hon. Lady that for the first time—[Hon. Members: “Get on with it!”] I have been asked to get on with it; things are going from bad to worse, aren’t they?