July 13, 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.

MasterCard Faces Antitrust Charges in E.U.  European antitrust officials have filed formal charges against MasterCard, accusing the company of harming consumers and retailers by setting artificially high fees for credit card transactions in Europe.  The European Commission said MasterCard had prevented some retailers from processing transactions in countries with lower fees. The commission also said that MasterCard’s fees were unfair to tourists traveling in Europe.

FTC exploring Apple rules for streaming music rivals in App Store.  U.S. government antitrust regulators are investigating claims that Apple’s treatment of rival streaming music apps is illegal under antitrust law, according to industry sources.  Apple recently launched a new music streaming service, Apple Music.  It also provides the App Store platform for competing streaming services including Jango, Spotify, Rhapsody and others.

States line up to scrutinize Aetna’s $33 Billion Humana deal.  U.S. insurance regulators and state attorneys general are lining up to examine Aetna Inc’s proposed $33 billion takeover of rival Humana Inc. for potential harm to consumers, complicating what was already expected to be a tough review by federal antitrust authorities.  Insurance commissioners in 18 states including Texas, Kentucky and Florida will study merger documents provided by Humana to determine whether the deal will harm competition and lead to higher insurance premiums or diminished access to healthcare providers.  Moreover, while the U.S. Department of Justice is taking the lead on scrutinizing the transaction, at least three state attorneys general – in Florida, Mississippi and Massachusetts – have stated they will look at the proposed acquisition as well.

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Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, Antitrust Policy, International Competition Issues

    July 6, 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.

    Airlines Under Justice Dept. Investigation Over Possible Collusion.  Federal prosecutors are investigating possible collusion among airlines to limit seating, two years after the U.S. Department of Justice approved the latest in a wave of airline mergers, saying the combination would benefit consumers.  In letters sent to airlines, federal prosecutors have asked for documents from the last two years related to statements and decisions they have made about limiting capacity on flight routes.  By making it harder for passengers to find seats, airlines could restrain competition and increase fares.

    Apple ‘assessing next steps’ after e-books antitrust ruling.  Apple is assessing its next steps after the decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit affirming the district court decision that the iPad maker conspired with five publishers to increase e-book prices.  In a statement issued after the appellate court handed down its 2-1 decision, the company maintained that it did not conspire to fix e-book prices, as the U.S. Department of Justice contends.

    Study Suggests That Google Has Its Thumb on Scale in Search.  A study by top academics at Harvard and Columbia suggests that Google sometimes alters results to play up its own content.  The study, which was paid for by  Yelp, the online review website that is one of Google’s rivals, could renew calls for government regulators — in particular, the Federal Trade Commission — to reopen an investigation into Google for unfairly promoting its own services.  The study may also provide ammunition to antitrust regulators in Europe who have accused the company of antitrust violations.

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    Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, Antitrust Litigation

      January 7, 2015

      European Commission Announces Agreement To Cap Interchange Fees For Card-Based Payments

      A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

      By Yulia Tosheva and James Ashe-Taylor

      The European Commission has announced that the European Parliament and the European Council have reached a long-awaited political agreement on the Commission’s proposal for a Regulation on Interchange Fees for Card-based Payment Transactions.

      The Regulation will introduce maximum fees for four-party card schemes’ consumer debit and credit cards, prevent card schemes from forcing retailers to accept all types of cards regardless of their fees, and establish transparency rules for all transactions. The Commission has already ruled that interchange fees set by MasterCard are in violation of EU antitrust laws and, after a seven-year court battle, MasterCard lost its final appeal before the European Court of Justice in September 2014.

      Interchange fees represent about 70% of the approximately 13 billion euros a year retailers pay banks to handle payment card transactions. The Regulation is expected to have a profound impact on the card industry as a whole but its effect is likely to be particularly felt in markets such as Germany, where average credit card rates stand at 1.8%, and Poland, where average debit card charges are 1.6%.

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      Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Legislation, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        April 1, 2014

        NLRB’s “Student-Athletes” Ruling Is Seen As Exposing School For Hypocrisy

        Last week’s decision by the National Labor Relations Board granting Northwestern University scholarship football players the right to unionize is sparking a debate over the hypocrisy of college sports.

        Constantine Cannon lawyers Gordon Schnell and David Scupp, who examined the NLRB decision in a post on this blog, express their views on the decision – and what it reveals about the big business of college sports – in an op-ed on cnn.com.  As Schnell and Scupp discuss in The hypocrisy of big-time college sports, amateurism in college sports is basically a myth that masks the reality that college athletes are employees who are responsible for the billions of dollars the NCAA and its members rake in each year.

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        Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing

          December 17, 2013

          Court Closes The Book On Bookhouse Antitrust Claims Against Amazon And Publishers

          By Allison F. Sheedy

          The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has dismissed antitrust claims against Amazon and the six largest book publishers related to the publishers’ contracts with Amazon for the distribution of e-books requiring the use of digital rights management software (“DRM”) in The Bookhouse of Stuyvesant Plaza, Inc. et al. v. Amazon.com, Inc. et al.

          The Bookhouse plaintiffs are independent bookstores that sell both print books and e-books.  They alleged claims of unlawful restraints of trade under Section 1 of the Sherman Act against all defendants, and claims of monopolization and attempted monopolization under Section 2 of the Sherman Act against Amazon.

          Generally speaking, DRM limits the ability to use digital content after its sale.  The plaintiffs alleged that Amazon, manufacturer of the Kindle e-reader, employed more restrictive DRM technology than required by its agreements with the six publisher defendants – Random House Inc., Penguin Group (USA) Inc., Hachette Book Group USA Inc., Simon & Schuster Inc., HarperCollins Publishers LLC and Macmillan Publishers Inc.  Plaintiffs claimed that this DRM technology effectively restricted the devices on which e-books sold and distributed by Amazon could be read, which rendered Amazon’s e-book platform a “closed ecosystem.”  click here for more »

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          Categories: Antitrust and Price Fixing, Antitrust Law and Monopolies, Antitrust Litigation

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