Rogers-Shaw hearing focuses on Freedom Mobile and competition concerns

Rogers proposed to sell Freedom to Vidéotron earlier this year

Rogers and Shaw logo on iPhone

Monday marked day one of the long-anticipated hearing between Rogers, Shaw and the Competition Bureau, with the parties arguing what the sale of Freedom Mobile would mean for Canadians.

The Competition Bureau said plans to give up Freedom Mobile would not address anti-competitive issues as Rogers will inherit assets that will impact how Freedom Mobile functions.

“The divestiture will not replace the vigorous, disruptive and growing competitive presence offered by Shaw in the market,” John Tyhurst, a lawyer representing the Competition Bureau, said in his opening statement.

Tyhurst said the Competition Bureau has accepted the proposed acquisition will remove concerns of lessening competition in Ontario, but that still won’t be the case in Alberta and B.C.

Under the current contract, Rogers will acquire 450,000 Shaw Mobile customers who bundle wireless services with cable and internet services. Tyhurst argued Rogers would attain cable and Wi-Fi infrastructure, the mentioned customers, and personnel that support Freedom, impacting how well Vidéotron will be able to compete.

Kent Thomson, a lawyer representing Shaw, said if the transaction for Freedom Mobile to be acquired by Vidéotron is blocked, Canadians will be at a loss.

“If this transaction moves forward, it will not change the number of wireless service providers in Ontario, Alberta or British Columbia. All that will happen is Vidéotron will step into the shoes of Freedom. In doing so, it will be able to compete more effectively and aggressively.”

Thomson argued the proposed transaction wouldn’t shrink competition, “significantly” change market shares, or alter concentration levels. He said Freedom’s market share in Ontario, Alberta, and B.C is below 15 percent.

Vidéotron has no presence in Alberta and B.C. and a “very modest presence” in Ontario, Thomson said. While Rogers will acquire customers from Shaw Mobile in Alberta and B.C, its market share will only increase by five percent if the transaction to sell Freedom is approved.

Jonathan Lisus, a lawyer representing Rogers, took a similar tone. He said the Competition Bureau is making it seem like Vidéotron is a “vulnerable dependent.” Lisus argues that Freedom “will be a much stronger competitor [under Vidéotron] than it was with Shaw.”

The parties presented their arguments to Chief Justice Paul Crampton. During Lisus’ opening statements, Crampton received multiple emails from people saying he should reject Rogers’ takeover of Shaw.

“My email account is getting bombarded by a very, very large number of emails, all with slightly different subject lines along the lines of ‘no to Rogers Shaw,'” Crampton said. “Whoever is organizing these needs to stop. It’s highly improper. I’m not going to open those emails.”