Conditions still to be met by LIME and FLOW, says Gibbs-Taitt
Less than a month after telecommunications companies Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC) and Columbus International Inc. announced their official rebranding to FLOW, signaling their merger, a consumer rights advocate is questioning the legality of the merger, saying some conditions are still to be met.
In its March 27, 2015 decision, the Fair Trading Commission (FTC) said pursuant to Section 20 (5) of the Fair Competition Act CAP 326C, it had completed its analysis of the merger application, which is subject to a number of conditions, including divestment of one set of the fibre cables in the zone where the LIME and FLOW networks overlapped.
The FTC said it had “considered the overall efficiencies of the merger and the anti-competitive effects, which the merger will create in the Fixed-voice (landline) telephony and Fixed data (broadband internet) services and has determined that the merger should be approved subject to” the conditions it outlined.
On July 16, the company announced its new consumer brand, officially signaling the merger.
The FTC later announced that a trustee was appointed to the new holding company of the vested assets of the two companies, one of the conditions it had outlined.
However, director general of the Barbados Consumer Research Association Malcolm Gibbs-Taitt told Barbados TODAY he still had reservations about the legality of the merger, pointing out that all of the conditions set out by the FTC should first be met before they could say they were officially merged.
“Based on the conditions set out by the Fair Trading Commission, I cannot agree that they are merged because the merger would go ahead ‘subject to the following conditions’ being met, and as I am aware only one condition has so far been met,” argued Gibbs-Taitt.
Gibbs-Taitt is also challenging the merger, saying that the condition which called for a buyer of the assets of the holding company within 180 days of the FTC’s merger decision, was not yet met.
Adding that he was aware that a trustee was appointed to the holding company, Gibbs-Taitt said he was also not aware that all current LIME and FLOW broadband and television tariffs were set at the lower level of the tariffs offered by the two companies.
“They did agree with the merger with some conditions. [All] those conditions, as far as I am aware, have not been met. So the way I seeing it is that the companies are behaving as if they are merged but, strictly speaking, in law I don’t think they can claim that they are merged yet because of the conditions that were placed on them have not all yet been met,” argued Gibbs-Taitt.
At the same time, Gibbs-Taitt said he was confident that going forward consumers should rest comfortably knowing that the newly appointed chairman of the FTC was “a legal expert”.
“The good thing about all of this is that the FTC has a new chairman and it is my view that this new chairman understands the law very well and I don’t think consumers need to worry unduly now because they have a legal expert who is now chairman,” said Gibbs-Taitt.
Effective July 10, 2015 until July 2018, Deputy Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of the West Indies (UWI), Cave Hill Campus Jeff Cumberbatch was appointed chairman of the FTC. He replaced Sir Neville Nicholls, a former president of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).