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

    May 4, 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.

    American Express told it cannot enforce anti-steering rules against merchants.  Merchants unhappy with the fees American Express charges them may steer customers toward less expensive cards without fearing retaliation from the credit card company, Judge Nicholas Garaufis ruled in federal court in Brooklyn.  The court issued a written ruling enjoining American Express from blocking restaurants, stores and other merchants from offering discounts for using lower-fee cards.  Judge Garaufis ruled in February that American Express’ rules for merchants against such activity, known as steering, “imposed actual, concrete harms on competition in the credit and charge card network services market.”  Constantine Cannon represented various merchants in commenting on the remedy adopted by the court.

    Applied Materials and Tokyo Electron Call Off $10 Billion Merger.  Two of the world’s largest manufacturers of the machinery used to produce semiconductors, Applied Materials of the United States and Tokyo Electron of Japan, dropped a $10 billion deal to merge after the U.S. Department of Justice said that combining their businesses would restrict competition.  The companies failed to come up with a plan that could allay the federal regulators’ antitrust concerns about combining two of the three largest players in a sector crucial to the production of modern electronic devices, from smartphones to televisions.

    U.S. Supreme Court weighs accepting ProMedica antitrust case.  The U.S. Supreme Court is considering hearing a Federal Trade Commission case on whether Ohio-based health system ProMedica violated antitrust laws when it acquired financially struggling St. Luke’s Hospital in Maumee, Ohio.  Some legal experts say it’s unlikely the high court will agree to hear ProMedica’s appeal of a lower court ruling ordering it to divest the hospital.   Constantine Cannon partner Matthew Cantor commented that he does not “see novel legal issues that the court is going to want to consider.”  The widely watched appeal comes as hospitals considering consolidation fret about antitrust regulators’ increasingly aggressive approach.

    S.Korea antitrust body investigating Oracle for software bundling.  South Korea’s antitrust body is investigating U.S. database services provider Oracle for bundling its new software offerings into maintenance services contracts with customers.  Hwang Won-chul, a director of the Korea Fair Trade Commission, indicated that the antitrust regulator is investigating Oracle because its software bundling is seen  as limiting competition.

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    Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

      April 20, 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.

      Europe Challenges Google, Seeing Violations of Its Antitrust Law.  The European Union has formally accused Google of abusing its dominance in web searches, bringing charges that could limit the giant American tech company’s moneymaking prowess.  These are the first antitrust charges asserted against Google after a years-long face-off between the company and European regulators.  The EU’s antitrust chief, Margrethe Vestager, also announced that the EU has opened a formal antitrust investigation into the company’s Android smartphone software.

      U.S. Antitrust Lawyers Said Leaning Against Comcast Deal.  Staff attorneys at the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice are close to recommending litigation to block Comcast’s bid to buy Time Warner Cable, according to reportedly knowledgeable sources.  Government attorneys who are investigating Comcast’s $45.2 billion proposal to create a nationwide cable giant are leaning against the merger out of concern that consumers would be harmed, and could be days away from recommending to senior officials that the division file a federal lawsuit challenging the deal.

      Apple cooperation with antitrust monitor down ‘sharply’ – report.  Apple’s cooperation with a court-appointed monitor has “sharply declined” as he reviews the iPad maker’s antitrust compliance policies, the monitor has reported to U.S. District Judge Denise Cote in Manhattan.  Michael Bromwich, who became Apple’s monitor after it was found liable for conspiring to raise e-book prices, reported on Thursday that Apple objected to providing information and “inappropriately” attempted to limit his activities.

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      Categories: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

        April 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.

        Formal Charges May Be Next in Europe’s Google Antitrust Inquiry.  Although Europe’s antitrust investigation of Google has dragged on without a settlement for nearly five years, the internet giant’s breathing room may soon come to an end.  Margrethe Vestager, the European Union’s antitrust chief, will make her first trip to Washington on Wednesday to participate in two antitrust conferences. The visit has raised expectations that she may be on the verge of announcing some action against Google.

        U.S. announces first antitrust e-commerce prosecution.  The U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division has announced its first prosecution specifically targeting Internet commerce, saying a man has agreed to plead guilty to conspiring to illegally fix the prices of posters he sold online.  David Topkins was accused of conspiring with other poster sellers to manipulate prices on Amazon Marketplace, a website for third-party sellers.  Topkins was accused of violating the Sherman Act by conspiring with other poster sellers to use algorithms, for which he wrote computer code, to coordinate price changes.

        Shell-BG takeover to test China’s pledge on antitrust transparency.  Royal Dutch Shell’s $70 billion bid for BG Group will test a pledge by China’s antitrust regime to be more transparent, after it faced strong criticism last year from the United States and Europe.  China’s new competition law has been a wildcard for large international deals in recent years, particularly where natural resources are concerned.

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        Categories: Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

          April 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.

          Antitrust and Other Inquiries in Europe Target U.S. Tech Giants.  European antitrust regulators are intensifying their scrutiny of giant American tech companies.  Not only is the European Union antitrust investigation into Google heating up, but additional European countries are looking into Facebook’s privacy settings, and Apple, which already is under scrutiny for its low corporate tax arrangements in Ireland, is now facing potential antitrust questions from the European Commission about the company’s upcoming music streaming service.

          StubHub is suing Ticketmaster over ticket cancellations.  StubHub, the largest ticket reseller in the U.S., filed an antitrust lawsuit against competitor Ticketmaster and the NBA’s Golden State Warriors, claiming that they worked together to cancel tickets that were resold on StubHub.  StubHub, which is represented by Constantine Cannon, stated that it “seeks to stop unfair and illegal anti-competitive business practices that prevent fans from deciding how they want to resell their tickets and which artificially drive up ticket prices.”

          European Commission Asks Companies to Go Public With Google Complaints.  The European Commission has asked several companies to go public with confidential complaints they have made against Google, according to sources.  The companies that have filed submissions with the commission include Yelp and other major American technology companies, as well as leading German and French publishing groups that claim Google has too much control over how Europeans access information over the Internet.

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          Categories: Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues

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