May 19, 2015

European Commission’s Digital Single Market Strategy Is Storming The Border Walls In E-Commerce

A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

By Yulia Tosheva and James Ashe-Taylor

The European Commission (“EC”) is taking aim at artificial restraints on cross-border online sales in the European Union with its launch of a formal investigation into e-commerce.

The antitrust investigation, which was opened on May 6, 2015, will focus on barriers to cross-border online trade in goods and services where e-commerce is most widespread such as electronics, clothing and shoes, as well as digital content.  The inquiry complements the EC’s wider Digital Single Market Strategy, which was adopted by the EC on May 6 as well.  The goal of the Digital Single Market is to ensure better access for consumers and businesses to digital goods and services across Europe, and create a level playing field for digital networks and innovative services.

The EC is concerned that online retailers may restrict cross-border online trade within the EU by deliberately creating technical and/or contractual barriers.  A recent report by the European Consumer Centres Network (ECC-net) showed that 32% of retailers cited contractual restrictions in their distribution agreements as the reason for refusing to supply services cross-border.  In another 2015 survey into wholesale and retail sales of goods and services in the EU, 19.1% of companies already active in cross-border e-commerce and 29% of companies that are not yet active, declared that suppliers’ restrictions affecting sales on online platforms either constituted or would constitute a problem for their businesses when selling online.

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Categories: International Competition Issues

    May 18, 2015

    The Antitrust Week In Review

    Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

    5 Big Banks Expected to Plead Guilty to Felony Charges, but Punishments May Be Tempered.  The U.S. Department of Justice is preparing to announce that Barclays, JPMorgan Chase, Citigroup and the Royal Bank of Scotland will collectively pay several billion dollars and plead guilty to criminal antitrust violations for rigging the price of foreign currencies, according to sources.  Reportedly, the Justice Department is also preparing to resolve accusations of foreign currency misconduct at UBS.

    Sports broadcast antitrust case may proceed as class action.  A federal judge ruled that television viewers may pursue a class-action lawsuit accusing Major League Baseball, the National Hockey League, Comcast Corp, DirecTV and other broadcasters of illegally restraining their ability to watch their favorite sports teams play.  U.S. District Judge Shira Scheindlin in Manhattan said the viewers suffered from “a dearth of choice in the market for baseball and hockey broadcasting,” and that it made sense for them to pursue their claims as a group.  The court also found, however, that damages could not be pursued on a classwide basis.

    Sysco may face about $1 billion in costs if US Foods merger dies.  Sysco Corp. will be left with a bill of around $1 billion if the Federal Trade Commission kills its $3.5 billion merger with US Foods, regulatory filings show, underscoring the perils of doing deals that have a good chance of being blocked by antitrust regulators.  According to a Reuters analysis of Sysco’s filings, the mammoth U.S. food distributor has spent more than $400 million so far on a combination of integration planning, financing charges and on defending the transaction in court.

    EU Regulators to Decide on GE, Alstom Deal by August 21.  European Union antitrust regulators have resumed their investigation into General Electric’s 12.4-billion-euro bid for Alstom’s energy unit after receiving requested data from the U.S. conglomerate.  According to the European Commission, it will decide by Aug. 21, 2015, whether to clear the deal, General Electric’s biggest acquisition.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      May 12, 2015

      UK Competition and Market Authority Shuts Down MasterCard and Visa Probes Following Approval of European Interchange Fees Regulation

      A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

      By Yulia Tosheva and James Ashe-Taylor

      The UK Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) announced on Wednesday that it is closing its investigations into MasterCard’s and Visa’s multilateral interchange fees (“MIF”) on the grounds of administrative priorities.

      The CMA reached its UK domestic decision in light of the approval by the Council of the European Union of the long-awaited Interchange Fee Regulation (“IFR”) on April 20, 2015.  The IFR will become effective 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

        May 11, 2015

        The Antitrust Week In Review

        Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

        E.U. Commission Opens Antitrust Inquiry Into E-Commerce Sector.  European antitrust officials have opened an investigation into whether large technology companies are impeding competition in online shopping, the latest in a string of inquiries in Europe focused on the web’s biggest players.  According to Margrethe Vestager, Europe’s antitrust chief, the review will focus on how electronics, clothing, shoes and online content are bought and sold online, and whether e-commerce companies have created artificial barriers that prevent Europeans from buying goods across national borders.

        Top California court revives Cipro antitrust case.  The California Supreme Court has revived an antitrust class action accusing a drugmaker of paying to keep a generic version of Bayer AG’s antibiotic Cipro off the market.  The unanimous opinion marks the first time an appellate court has tackled so-called “pay for delay” deals since a landmark 2013 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court held that such deals may be illegal.  The plaintiffs in the antitrust class action – a group of non-profits and individuals in California who bought Cipro – claim that Bayer (which settled the claims in 2013) violated California antitrust law by paying Barr Pharmaceuticals, (since bought by Teva Pharmaceutical Industries) $398 million to refrain from marketing a generic version of Cipro until Bayer’s patent on the drug expired.

        Sysco Urges Judge to Save US Foods Deal in Antitrust Duel.  Sysco Corp.’s takeover of US Foods Inc. would create an industry “behemoth” in food distribution, eliminating intense head-to-head competition between the companies, a U.S. lawyer argued at the start of a courtroom battle over the merger.  The FTC is asking a federal judge to block the $3.5 billion deal, arguing the merger would give Sysco a dominant share in an industry where it’s the biggest player, and lead to higher prices for restaurants, hotels, school cafeterias and other customers.

        SandRidge is target of antitrust grand jury probe: filing.    SandRidge Energy is the target of a federal grand jury investigation into violations of antitrust law related to the leasing of oil and gas properties, according to a regulatory filing by the company.  The Oklahoma-based company said in an SEC filing that the transactions subject to the government’s inquiry date from 2012 and prior years.

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        Categories: Antitrust Litigation, Uncategorized

          May 8, 2015

          Conservatives’ Blockbuster Victory Could Herald Major Changes For UK

          A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

          By James Ashe-Taylor

          In a stunning result, the Conservatives under David Cameron have won a slender majority in the UK Parliament, according to final tallies announced today.

          In an unexpectedly lopsided victory, the governing Conservatives won 331 of the 650 seats in the House of Commons – a gain 24 seats from the 2010 election.  It was a bitter loss for the Conservatives’ main rival, the Labour Party, which tied the Conservatives in pre-election polls, yet ended up winning only 232 seats, a decline of 26 from the 2010 results.

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