Seven states join with Justice Department in AT&T lawsuit

The Justice Department's lawsuit to block the merger of AT&T and T-Mobile got some help this week. The Washington Post reports that the attorney generals of seven states have now officially filed to join the lawsuit, claiming that any merger of the two wireless phone carriers would cause problems for consumers. The states that joined the lawsuit are California, Illinois, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington. The Justice Department said in a statement that the seven states "... have provided invaluable assistance throughout our investigation. Together, we will seek to protect consumers from the anti-competitive harm that would result from this proposed transaction."

The Justice Department filed its lawsuit on August 31, claiming that the proposed $39 billion merger of AT&T, the nation's largest wireless carrier, with T-Mobile, the fourth largest carrier, " ... would result in tens of millions of consumers across the U.S. facing higher prices, fewer choices, and lower quality products for wireless services." AT&T responded to the lawsuit a few days later, saying, "The Department does not and cannot explain how, in the face of all these aggressive rivals, the combined AT&T/T-Mobile will have any ability or incentive to restrict output, raise prices, or slow innovation."

The next phase of this legal confrontation will happen on Wednesday, September 21. That's when U.S. District Judge Ellen S. Huvelle will hear statements from both parties in this case. It's also possible that AT&T could reach a settlement deal with the Justice Department that might involve selling off part of T-Mobile's assets to other companies.

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