Key Conclusions – Cartels: Lessons from Recent Investigations, Brussels Advanced Competition Law Conference

On 22 November, Johan Ysewyn and Maria Jaspers (DG COMP) presented the highlights of recent EU cartel enforcement in their annual dual-presentation at the Advanced EU Competition Law Conference in Brussels.  They covered their traditional three pillars of enforcement, policy and court review.

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Covington’s Net Neutrality and Zero-Rating Webinar

On 20 November, Covington hosted its webinar looking at developments in Net Neutrality and Zero-rating from both a US and a European perspective. Our presenters included ex-FCC Bureau Chief, Partner Matt DelNero from our DC office, and ex-DG Competition Head of Unit, Partner Kevin Coates and Senior Associate Siobhan Kahmann from our Brussels office. The webinar was well attended, with participants from all major jurisdictions around the world.

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The Vestager Tenure : Mid-Point or Turning Point?

We are now well past the mid-point of Commissioner Vestager’s tenure as European Commissioner for Competition.  Let us assume that – as with all of her predecessors, and regardless of merit – she will not be reappointed for a second term in the post, so that by the end of 2019 we will have a new Competition Commissioner.

What this means, among other things, is that if an antitrust or State aid case has not yet started, then it is in practice impossible to finish it within her term.  That means that the Commissioner’s margin of manœuvre in establishing a legacy is mostly limited to the cases that we already know about.

So what do we know about Commissioner Vestager – and can we start predicting what the next two years of competition enforcement will look like?

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The Bundeskartellamt Publishes a Paper on Big Data and Competition

On 6 October 2017, the German Competition Authority (the “FCO”) launched a new series of papers on “Competition and Consumer Protection in the Digital Economy” with its first paper on “Big Data and Competition” (available in German) (the “Paper”). The FCO sets out its view of the specific characteristics of digital, data-based markets, the role data may play in the competitive analysis of such markets and the importance of data protection in competition law proceedings. Continue Reading

The German Competition Register – a new animal in the jungle of EU Member States’ competition laws

On 29 July 2017, the new German Competition Registry Act (Wettbewerbsregistergesetz – WRegG) became effective. Organisations offering public tenders worth EUR 30,000 or more will have to check the register to verify whether participating undertakings are excluded from public procurement because of past offences. The new register will be hosted by the Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt – BKartA) and has to be implemented by 2020 latest.

According to press reports (PaRR of 26 September 2017), a senior official of the BKartA, indicated that the BKartA is now planning a directive on the register’s standards and procedures.

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Price comparison websites: The UK’s CMA weighs in on the competition law, data protection and consumer protection requirements

The UK’s competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), has published a 349 page Final Report (combined with 5 Background Papers and a glossary) on its Market Study into what it refers to as Digital Comparison Tools (DCTs) – a term which includes price comparison websites, best buy tables, and other more automated services like matching services which analyse complex usage patterns, voice-based comparison tools, and reverse auction platforms. The CMA concluded that consumer experiences of these services were mostly positive, although there were concerns over:

  • Competition law implications of exclusive or preferential arrangements;
  • Data protection law and the use of personal data;
  • Consumer protection law and the transparency of arrangements between these sites and the services that they are comparing.

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Welcome clarifications by the EU Court on the concept of excessive pricing

On 14 September, the Court of Justice of the European Union provided detailed guidance on the concept of excessive pricing under Article 102 TFEU, in response to questions posed by the Latvian Supreme Court.

In Case C-177/16, the Latvian Supreme Court referred a number of questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) regarding the concept of excessive pricing.

This resulted from a series of appeals relating to a decision that the Latvian Competition Council (LCC) took over conduct of the Consulting agency on copyright and communications / Latvian authors’ association (AKKA/LAA), the Latvian collective management organisation handling copyright licences for (Latvian and foreign) musical works in Latvia. The 2013 infringement decision found that the AKKA/LAA had abused its dominant position by imposing excessive music licence fees for music played in Latvian retailers and service providers. Continue Reading

The European Court of Justice’s Judgment in Intel

Today the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) issued its long-awaited judgment in Intel Corporation Inc. v European Commission. It sets aside the judgment of the General Court (GC) on the basis that the judges failed to assess the effects of the loyalty rebate schemes implemented by Intel on competition in the EEA. The CJEU refers the case back to the GC. Continue Reading

The European Commission Publishes its Final Report on the E-commerce Sector Inquiry

On 10 May 2017 the European Commission published its Final Report on the E-commerce Sector Inquiry (the “Report”).  The Commission’s E-commerce Sector Inquiry, launched on 6 May 6 2015 as part of the Digital Single Market Strategy, gathered evidence from nearly 1,900 companies connected with the online sale of consumer goods and digital content.  The Commission published its initial findings on geo-blocking in an issues paper in March 2016, and its Preliminary Report in September 2016.  The Final Report sets out the Commission’s definitive findings from the Sector Inquiry.

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