June 15, 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.

Apple Music and Labels Investigated in 2 States.  The attorneys general of New York and Connecticut have been investigating Apple’s negotiations with music companies for possible antitrust violations.  The attorneys general wanted to know whether Apple pressured the music labels — or whether the labels conspired with Apple and one another — to withdraw support for popular “freemium” services offered by companies like Spotify in favor of Apple’s paid music subscriptions.

Amazon’s E-Books Business Investigated by European Antitrust Regulators.  European Union antitrust regulators are investigating whether Amazon used its dominant position in the region’s e-books market to favor its own products over rivals.  The European Commission is evaluating the legality of clauses that Amazon used with European publishers, which required them to inform the e-commerce giant when they offered more favorable terms for books to other digital retailers.

U.S. Antitrust Reviews of Mergers Get Longer.  While mergers and acquisitions have accelerated sharply since the financial crisis faded, the U.S. government has slowed its pace of reviewing proposed deals.  Deal reviews conducted by the U.S. Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission this year have averaged more than 10 months, an increase from an average of seven months in recent years.

Gazprom has until mid-Sept to reply to EU antitrust charges.  Russian energy company Gazprom has been given until mid-September to respond to European Union antitrust charges of over-charging for gas in eastern and central Europe, and blocking competitors from entering the market.  Although the European Commission gave Gazprom 12 weeks to reply when it revealed the charges on April 22, companies typically ask for more time to marshal their legal and economic arguments when faced with complex issues.

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Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

    June 8, 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.

    Antitrust Scrutiny for 3 Big U.S. Theater Chains.  A federal investigation into whether the big movie theater chains are misusing their market clout to keep new films away from independent competitors is gaining steam.  Cinemark Holdings, the nation’s third-largest movie theater operator, disclosed in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it had received a civil investigative demand for information from the antitrust division of the Justice Department.  Cinemark’s two bigger competitors, Regal Entertainment Group and AMC Entertainment, have already alerted shareholders to similar requests.

    Privacy app maker files EU antitrust complaint against Google.  U.S. tech firm Disconnect has filed a complaint with EU antitrust regulators against Google’s ban on its privacy app, accusing the Silicon Valley giant of abusing its dominant market position.  Disconnect, which was set up four years ago by former Google engineers, says its app protects users of the Android operating system from invisible tracking and malware distributed through advertisements.  Disconnect claims that Google abused its position by blocking the app from the Google Play store last year, and gained an unfair advantage over competitors by integrating its own privacy and security services into its own products.

    Motorola’s Antitrust Lawsuit May Head to Top Court.  The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to announce  later this month whether it will review a decision by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit tossing out a civil antitrust suit by Motorola Mobility seeking damages from AU Optronics and other members of an alleged price-fixing cartel.  The appeals court held that Motorola’s overseas subsidiaries could not reap the benefits of America’s antitrust laws.  The decision, authored by prominent legal theorist Judge Richard A. Posner, has engendered a lively debate by antitrust scholars over the global reach of America’s antitrust laws.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      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

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