September 30, 2014

Google’s Settlement Offer Sparks European Debate

A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

By James Ashe-Taylor and Ana Rojo Prada

Debate continues over Google’s settlement offer in search and advertising investigation as European Commission indicates that more is needed.

Google and Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp have traded blows publicly following comments by the European Commission indicating that it would reopen its antitrust investigation into Google’s search and advertising business.

Outgoing Competition Commissioner Joaquin Almunia has indicated in interviews over the last week that Google’s proposals to settle the investigation do not fully address the Commission’s concerns.

In an open letter to Almunia, News Corp Chief Executive Robert Thomson called Google “a platform for piracy and malicious networks.”  He also alleged that Google deliberately made it difficult to “access information independently and meaningfully,” and that its sudden changes to the ranking and display of search results prejudiced small companies.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

    September 18, 2014

    Regulators Prescribing Higher Dose Of Pharmaceutical Antitrust Enforcement

    By Ankur Kapoor

    Antitrust enforcers returned to their offices after Labor Day, refreshed and ready to tackle what they view to be anticompetitive practices by pharmaceutical companies to delay entry of lower-priced generic drugs.

    In addition to recent enforcement efforts by antitrust regulators, two federal courts have issued opinions supporting the theory underlying the enforcers’ new efforts to police so-called “reverse payments.”

    On September 8, 2014, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) filed an antitrust complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania against AbbVie Inc. (a spinoff of Abbott Laboratories’ portfolio of proprietary pharmaceutical and biologic drugs) and generic giant Teva Pharmaceuticals. FTC v. AbbVie Inc. is the FTC’s first action against “reverse-payment” or “pay-for-delay” agreements between patent-holders and generic competitors since the FTC’s 2013 Supreme Court victory in FTC v. Actavis, Inc., which held that such agreements could run afoul of the antitrust laws under certain circumstances.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation

      September 9, 2014

      European Commission Slaps Smart Card Chips Cartel With Fines

      A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

      By Irene Fraile

      The European Commission has imposed fines totaling 138 million euros on smart card chips producers Infineon, Philips and Samsung for breaching European Union antitrust laws that prohibit cartels.

      According to the Commission, from September 2003 to September 2005, the companies engaged in a cartel to restrain competition relating to the smart card chips used in mobile telephone SIM cards, bank cards, identity cards, passports, pay TV cards, and various other applications.  The cartel used a network of bilateral contacts in order to coordinate responses to customers’ requests to lower prices and, ultimately, keep prices up.  The companies discussed and exchanged sensitive commercial information on pricing, customers, contract negotiations and production capacity, thereby damaging competition by reducing uncertainty concerning future behavior in the market.

      Although some of the cartelists took measures to conceal the collusion, one of them – Renesas (a joint venture between Hitachi and Mitsubishi) – finally blew the whistle and revealed the existence of the cartel to the antitrust authorities under the Commission’s Leniency Programme.  As a result, Renesas received full immunity and avoided a fine of more than 51 million euros.  Samsung, which also cooperated with the investigation, received a 30 percent reduction in the level of its fine in return for its cooperation.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

        September 4, 2014

        MFNs Becoming A Battleground In FCC’s Review Of Comcast/Time Warner Deal

        By Allison F. Sheedy

        The biggest regulatory review of the year—the Federal Communications Commission’s examination of Comcast Corp.’s proposed acquisition of Time Warner, Inc.—has taken an interesting foray into analyzing competitive tactics, with the FCC’s invitation to media companies to confidentially raise concerns about Comcast’s use of most favored nation (“MFN”) provisions in its contracts to purchase content.

        The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the FCC has invited companies, including Discovery Communications, to offer feedback about Comcast’s MFNs to aid its evaluation of the proposed take-over.  The FCC also publicly released a request for information to Comcast that included (among many other items) details about each agreement in which Comcast has used an MFN.

        In a typical form, an MFN is a contractual promise obtained by a buyer from a seller that the seller will not give a better price to any other purchaser.  A buyer usually seeks an MFN clause as a form of protection to ensure that its competitors do not get cost or other advantages.

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        Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, Antitrust Policy

          August 6, 2014

          China Ramps Up Antitrust Enforcement With Second Round Of Raids Of Microsoft Today 

          Why you should take notice if you do business in China

          By Aymeric Dumas-Eymard

          Almost six years to the day after China began enforcing its Antimonopoly Law (“AML”), China’s antitrust authorities are marking the anniversary with a bang as they followed up last week’s raids of U.S. software giant Microsoft with a second round of raids today.

          China’s antitrust regulator the State Administration for Industry and Commerce (“SAIC”) announced on its website today that it was following up last week’s raids of Microsoft’s offices in China with new raids of the software giant and its partner in China, Accenture PLC.  SAIC stated that it raided Microsoft offices in Beijing, Liaoning, Fujian and Hubei.  The SAIC also raided the Dalian offices of Accenture, which performs financial work for Microsoft.

          Today’s raids follow up on SAIC’s raids of July 28, 2014, in which more than 100 law enforcement officers raided Microsoft offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Chengdu.  The antitrust enforcers reportedly questioned Microsoft executives and seized documents, electronic data (including emails) and computers.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

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