October 17, 2014

Brussels Antitrust Seminar Demonstrates Shifting European Landscape For Competition Enforcement In Wake Of ECJ MasterCard Judgment

A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

By Irene Fraile and Richard Pike

The recent judgment by the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) in the MasterCard case is sparking a lively debate about how antitrust enforcement of payment system regimes should evolve in the European Union, as evidenced by an antitrust seminar co-sponsored by Constantine Cannon in Brussels on Monday.

The ECJ’s MasterCard judgment was rendered on September 11, 2014, when it dismissed MasterCard’s final appeal against an antitrust infringement decision adopted by the European Commission in 2007 regarding MasterCard’s Multilateral Interchange Fees (“MIFs”) for cross-border payment card transactions. MIFs are the fees paid by merchants’ banks to card-issuing banks to cover the cost of processing card payments. The ECJ held that the level of those fees had “restrictive effects on competition.”

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

    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 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

        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

          June 16, 2014

          EU General Court Upholds Record 1.06 Billion Euro Antitrust Fine Against Intel

          A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

          By Irene Fraile

          The General Court of the European Union has dismissed Intel’s appeal of the European Commission´s decision fining the computer chip manufacturer a record 1.06 billion euros for breaching EU competition law.

          The European Commission imposed the fine on Intel in May 2009, after finding that Intel abused its dominant position in the x86 CPU microprocessors market by attempting to foreclose Advanced Micro Devices (AMD), its main rival, between 2002 and 2007.

          According to the Commission’s complaint, which was filed in 2000, Intel (a) had conditioned rebates to strategically important customers on their agreeing to source all, or almost all, of their supplies from Intel, and (b) had paid certain customers (HP, Acer, Lenovo) to halt, delay or limit the launch of specific products incorporating chips from AMD. The Commission also concluded that Intel had attempted to conceal these anticompetitive practices, which formed part of a long-term strategy to squeeze AMD out of the market.

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          Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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