The European Commission on Friday approved the planned sale of AOL's UK Internet access business to Carphone Warehouse. The deal follows recent similar sell-offs in Germany and France.

The Commission said that its month-long examination of the proposed transaction showed that in the sectors where the companies' activities overlap, internet access services and fixed-line telephony services, the combined entity's share of the relevant market "would not give rise to competition concerns as the new firm would continue to face effective competitive pressure from other market participants".

The Commission is the European Union's regulatory and executive branch.

Time Warner, AOL's owner, has been retreating from the internet access business in Europe, where its subscriber numbers are declining.

AOL has about 5.9 million customers for its three European divisions, in the UK, France and Germany. In September it agreed to sell its French operation to Neuf Cegetel SA for €288 million. A month later it agreed to sell its German internet service provider to Telecom Italia for €675 million.

CPW is an independent retailer of mobile communications, with over 1,500 stores in Europe. As well as retailing mobile handsets and mobile connections, CPW is active in the supply of fixed-line telecommunication services to business and residential customers. It also offers narrowband and broadband internet access services to UK and European residential customers.