BRUSSELS, Feb 29 (Reuters) - EU antitrust regulators are asking rivals and users whether plans by Vivendi's Universal Music and a Sony-led group to acquire parts of record label EMI will result in higher prices and also shut out competitors.
A questionnaire sent by the European Commission and seen by Reuters asked whether artists will be able to switch record labels easily and at a reasonable cost once the two deals are completed.
Companies have until Wednesday to respond to the questionnaire on the Universal and EMI deal and until March 6 on Sony and EMI.
The EU executive will decide by March 23 whether to allow Universal to buy EMI's recorded music unit for $1.9 billion. It has set an April 2 deadline for a decision on Sony's bid to buy EMI's music publishing business.
The Commission also wanted to know if social networks such as Facebook and other online platforms would be a valid option for artists seeking to bypass record labels.
Both Universal and the Sony-led group are expected to say that strong competition in the music business, especially from online rivals such as Apple and Amazon, meant their acquisitions would not restrict the market.
Impala, a lobbying group for independent music companies, has called EU regulators to block both deals, saying they would reduce the number of competitors.
Rival Warner, which had also sought to buy EMI's recorded music, is also likely to warn the Commission about the risks of an overly concentrated market.