On 22 April 2020, the UK Competition and Market Authority (“CMA”) published its guidance on ‘Merger assessments during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic’ (“the guidance”). Prior to the publication of the guidance, there was some speculation about whether the CMA would be more willing to accept ‘failing firm’ arguments as the economic impact of COVID-19 hit home. However, while the CMA has, as it acknowledged, “been working closely with the government to relax competition law where appropriate”, the guidance and a number of recent CMA cases make it clear that the CMA is not relaxing its merger assessments in response to COVID-19.

Continue Reading The CMA’s Guidance on Merger Assessments During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic and Recent CMA Cases

The European Commission (”Commission”) is preparing the ground for a new competition enforcement tool. This new tool could substantially extend the competition authority’s current enforcement powers and allow for far-reaching intervention where the Commission identifies structural competition concerns. In particular, following the proposal, the standard for intervention could be lowered significantly as the Commission may no longer be required to establish dominance in order to impose behavioural or structural remedies on a company.

Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, explained “that there are certain structural risks for competition, such as tipping markets, which are not addressed by the current rules.” She stated that the Commission “is seeking the views of stakeholders to explore the need for a possible new competition tool that would allow addressing such structural competition problems.
Continue Reading The New Normal? EU Commission Prepares a New Competition Enforcement Tool Aiming at Structural Competition Concerns

Under Article 102 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (“TFEU”), an undertaking may abuse its dominant position by “directly or indirectly imposing unfair purchase or selling prices”.  The UK Court of Appeal recently provided guidance regarding the legal test to determine whether pricing is excessive and unfair.  In March, it dismissed the UK Competition and Markets Authority’s (“CMA”) appeal in the Phenytoin case.
Continue Reading The UK Court of Appeal Clarifies the Legal Test for Excessive Pricing

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 16 January 2019, the European Court of Justice (“ECJ”) rejected the European Commission’s (“Commission”) appeal in Commission v. UPS. The judgment followed Advocate General Kokott’s Opinion of July 2018, and upholds the 2017 judgment of the General Court (“GC”) annulling on procedural grounds the Commission’s decision prohibiting the acquisition of TNT by UPS.

Continue Reading EU Court Confirms the Annulment of the European Commission’s Decision Prohibiting the UPS/TNT Transaction

On 4 November 2018, the UK government and the Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) issued a press release confirming that they will examine the practices of retailers that target online consumers and charge them different prices for the same product through personalised pricing.  Their research will cover a range of products sold online “such as holidays, cars and household goods”.  The announcement is unsurprisingly silent as to whether legislative changes or changes to the CMA’s enforcement policy will result.

This is the latest in a line of UK government and CMA initiatives regarding personalised pricing.  On 31 October 2018, the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) announced an investigation into personalised pricing for motor and home insurance policies after finding that insurance companies were price discriminating between customers; and on 8 October 2018, the CMA published a Working Paper on the ‘use of pricing algorithms to facilitate collusion and personalised pricing’ (see our recent Covington Competition Blog post).

Continue Reading UK Government and CMA research whether online customers are targeted through personalised pricing

In October, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) imposed a fine of 1.6 million GBP for a land agreement which it found to infringe competition law. This is the first time that the CMA has taken enforcement action and issued a fine in relation to a land agreement, despite such agreements having been covered by the Chapter 1 prohibition (the UK equivalent of Article 101 TFEU) since 2011. The imposition of the fine, together with increased activity by the CMA in this sector, suggests that undertakings with land agreements should carefully check their compliance with competition law. Whatever “grace to adapt” has been afforded to businesses by the CMA since the change in the law has clearly come to an end.

Continue Reading Land agreements rise up the CMA’s agenda

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’

On 25 September 2018, Covington’s Johan Ysewyn and Jim O’Connell will speak on cartels and merger enforcement, respectively, at the 12th Annual Georgetown Global Antitrust Enforcement Symposium in Washington DC.

This Symposium serves as a leading forum for in-house and outside counsel, policymakers, corporate executives, economists and academics to discuss the most recent issues in competition law and policy.
Continue Reading 12th Annual Georgetown Global Antitrust Enforcement Symposium – Debating the Latest Issues with Covington’s Johan Ysewyn and Jim O’Connell

The UK Government published its highly-anticipated technical guidance on merger review and anti-competitive activity on 13 September 2018 which will apply in the case of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit (the ‘Guidance’). Although brief, it provides market players with some form of practical advice and insights on what to expect, how cases are likely to be divided between the EU and UK regimes, how UK competition law will develop, and suggests in what ways post-Brexit competition damages actions in the UK Courts may change. This Guidance follows on from the previously released ‘no-deal’ state aid guidance – as was covered in our previous Covington alert – forming part of a larger suite of ‘no-deal’ Brexit guidance papers released by the Government in recent weeks.

The Guidance provides several key pieces of practical advice for businesses regarding different types of competition law processes in the wake of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit.
Continue Reading The UK Government Issues ‘No-deal’ Competition and Merger Guidance