Back in 2020, the French Competition Authority (“FCA”) had announced, in its annual priorities, its interest in the competition implications of the digital revolution in the financial sector, notably in the context of the growth of FinTech, the introduction of blockchain technology and the emergence of “digital giants” in payment services. Shortly after this announcement, on 13 January 2020, the FCA started an ex officio investigation to assess the competitive situation in the sector of new technologies applied to financial activities and, more specifically, to payment activities.

More than a year later, in a public opinion of over 120 pages, the French Competition Authority (“FCA”) provides its initial conclusions (i) noting the emergence of new services, initiation channels and alternative payment methods, (ii) reporting on a new market dynamic with the arrival of new players and the impact on traditional banking groups and (iii) addressing some of the competition issues facing the sector.


Continue Reading The French Competition Authority gives its views on the competition issues arising from Fintech

On 19 January 2021, the 10th amendment of the German Act against Restraints of Competition (“ARC”), the so-called ARC Digitisation Act (the “ARC-DA”) entered into force. The ARC-DA brings far-reaching amendments to German competition law, containing inter alia

  • the introduction of a new framework to intervene in the digital sector and a revision of the rules on abuse of dominance including enhanced rules for access to data;
  • significant increases of merger control notification thresholds applicable across industries; and
  • a number of further substantial amendments including a codification of the FCO’s leniency program, the implementation of the European Commission’s ECN+ Directive introducing new powers of the Federal Cartel Office (“FCO”) in the context of inspections, and changes concerning cartel damage claims.

In this blog-post we focus on three core developments: (i) novel powers for intervention in digital markets, (ii) the additional basis for data access claims and (iii) the core amendments to the merger control regime.
Continue Reading Germany: The wind of change – Substantial competition law amendments

Yesterday, the European Commission published its proposals for the Digital Markets Act (“DMA Proposal”) and Digital Services Act (“DSA Proposal”), proposing new regulation of “intermediary services” and “designated gatekeepers”. The proposals would impose new obligations on providers of digital services and augment enforcement powers.
Continue Reading Digital Markets Act Proposal

The UK Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) has published advice to the UK Government on the design and implementation of a new regulatory regime for digital markets. The new regime, if implemented, will apply to certain digital businesses that are designated as having Strategic Market Status, or “SMS”. It will provide for ex ante regulation that governs the conduct of key aspects of SMS firms’ activities, including a mandatory merger filing regime for SMS firms. The new regime will be administered by a new Digital Markets Unit (“DMU”) that will sit within the CMA.

The CMA’s recommendations are released at a time when scrutiny of, and regulatory changes for, digital markets are common across a number of jurisdictions. This includes the EU where the Digital Services Act and Digital Markets Act are expected to be published before Christmas. This blog post highlights some key elements of the proposed new digital markets regime.
Continue Reading UK CMA Published Recommendations for the Regulation of Digital Markets

In his speech in Austin, Texas in 2019[1] and subsequent interviews,[2] the Chairman of the French Electronic Communications and Postal Regulatory Authority (ARCEP) and former general rapporteur at the French Competition Authority, Sébastien Soriano, suggested that it is no longer appropriate to apply the “Schumpeterian paradigm” to technology companies that he characterised as having reached “… a critical size making it unlikely that external innovation will reverse the situation”.

Since then, Mr. Soriano has spoken about addressing the market power of “prevailing platforms”(“plateformes structurantes”). Last week, ARCEP defined “prevailing platforms” in a strategic note “Prevailing digital platforms – Elements of reflection relating to their characterization”.[3] This strategic note effects the shift in approach that Mr Soriano proposed.

Taking into account the current definitions of digital platforms, ARCEP has defined “prevailing digital platforms” as follows:

online platform operators or operating system providers which, in particular because of their intermediation activity in accessing internet services and content, and because of their importance, are able to significantly limit the ability of users to engage in economic activity or communicate online”.

To determine whether a given operator falls within this definition, ARCEP has set out a set of indices (partly based on the criteria used by the European Commission to characterise operators with significant market power in the electronic communications sector).
Continue Reading The French telecoms regulator has entered the fray “prevailing digital platform”

On 7 October 2019, the German Ministry of Economics and Energy published the draft Act on Digitalisation of German Competition Law (the “Draft Act”).  The Draft Act proposes several key changes to the current competition rules in Germany, with an emphasis on what the proponents present as novel challenges that arise in digital markets and in connection with data.  Subject to further revisions by the Federal Government, the Draft Act would enter into force during the second half of 2020.

Continue Reading German Ministry of Economics and Energy publishes the draft Act on Digitalisation of German Competition Law

After her confirmation hearing in front of the European Parliament on Tuesday 8 October, Magrethe Vestager looks certain to remain as Competition Commissioner for a second term and to combine that with a broader responsibility for digital policy development. Both the second term and the combination of the competition portfolio with a policy brief are unprecedented in recent decades.

Several key points, including the way in which she intends to manage digital matters and a potential conflict of interest, emerged from the hearing.


Continue Reading Vestager outlines portfolio plans in European Parliament confirmation hearing

On 10 September 2019, Margrethe Vestager was proposed as the European Commissioner for Competition, a post which she has held since November 2014.  The appointment is still subject to the confirmation of the European Parliament.

Vestager has also been given the role of Executive Vice President, with the mandate of making “Europe Fit for the

On 8 October 2018, the UK Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) published a Working Paper on the ‘use of pricing algorithms to facilitate collusion and personalized pricing’ (the “Paper”). It follows a number of other initiatives from competition authorities regarding algorithms, including the recent German Monopolies Commission’s proposals regarding pricing algorithms, which was the subject of a Covington Competition Blog post. The CMA’s analysis reflects input from algorithm providers, other competition authorities, and the results of the CMA’s findings from pilot tests. The Paper is economic rather than legal in focus, and assesses the extent to which various algorithm models have the potential to affect competition.

Continue Reading The CMA’s Paper on Pricing Algorithms, Collusion and Personalised Pricing

On the 10th October 2018, BEREC (the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications) launched its public consultation on the ‘Data Economy’. This comes at a time when different regulators are increasingly discussing the importance of big data, including the opportunities and risks that it brings about, how these may evolve, and how (and increasingly who should take the responsibility) to regulate. While the data protection and competition authorities have so far been most vocal in this deepening regulatory debate, the opening of this consultation represents a clear and decisive move by European telecom regulators to ‘throw their hat’ into the ring and get included in the discussion – and potentially future regulation – of Europe’s data economy.

All interested stakeholders, including public organisations, industry actors, consumers, associations, academics, financial advisers, and other stakeholders with expertise or interest in the data economy are strongly encouraged to have their say. BEREC’s consultation video can be accessed here, and the consultation is open until 21 November 2018.


Continue Reading IoT Update: BEREC launches public consultation on the ‘Data Economy’