October 30, 2014

European Commission Hits Telecoms With Fines Of 70 Million Euros For Abusing Slovak Broadband Market

A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

By Yulia Tosheva and James Ashe-Taylor

The European Commission has signalled that it is not dialing down its scrutiny of the telecommunications sector by imposing fines totalling 70 million euros on Slovak Telekom and its parent company, Deutsche Telekom.

On October 15, 2014, the Commission imposed a fine of 38,838,000 euros on Slovak Telekom and Deutsche Telekom for pursuing an abusive strategy designed to exclude competitors from the Slovak market for broadband services for more than five years. Deutsche Telekom was held to be jointly and severally liable for the amount of the fine as it had exercised decisive influence over Slovak Telekom during the period of the infringements.

Deutsche Telekom also received an additional fine of 31,070,000 euros for its recidivist behaviour, based on its record of having been fined by the Commission in 2003 for a margin squeeze in the German broadband market.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

    October 29, 2014

    European Commission Settles Two Swiss Franc-Related Derivatives Investigations

    A View from Constantine Cannon’s London Office

    By Ana Rojo Prada and James Ashe-Taylor

    The European Commission has settled two cartel investigations and sanctioned four major banks in the Swiss Franc-related derivatives market, imposing total fines of approximately 94 million euros, for violations of European Union antitrust rules.

    Interest rate derivatives (including swaps, futures and options) are financial products used by banks or companies as insurance mechanisms to manage the risk of interest rate fluctuations.

    The first cartel investigation settlement involved collusive behaviour between the Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) and JPMorgan between March 2008 and July 2009.  The cartel sought to influence the Swiss Franc Libor benchmark interest rate as a means of distorting the pricing of the derivatives indexed on it.  The cartel engaged in discussions concerning one of the bank’s future Swiss Franc Libor rate submissions and exchanged information on trading positions and intended prices.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues

      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

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