Two-minute Recap of Competition Law Matters Around the Globe – April 2024


Phase II process started for Three/Vodafone

The UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”) has decided to initiate a Phase II investigation into Vodafone’s proposed merger of its UK branch with Three, a UK mobile operator owned by CK Hutchison, based in Hong Kong. The CMA is concerned that the merger, consolidating two of the UK’s four mobile network operators, might result in increased prices and lower service quality for customers. The CMA must reach its final decision by 18 September 2024. Notably, the European Commission (“EC”) had already unconditionally approved the transaction in Phase I in December 2023.


GeneraLife’s Fertility Clinic Acquisition Faces Scrutiny in Spain

The Spanish competition authority is investigating GeneraLife Clincs, a chain of fertility clinics owned by private equity firm Investindustrial, for potentially completing its acquisition of competitor Ginemed without prior notification. This means GeneraLife might have completed the deal without notifying the authority, which is required by law if the transaction exceeds a certain market share threshold. The authority has three months to decide on the case.


The EC approves Illumina's divestment of GRAIL

The EC has approved American biotechnology company Illumina’s proposal to sell Grail, another American biotechnology company, as part of the corrective measures in terms of the reversal of its finalized acquisition of Grail.


In September 2022, the EC blocked the USD 8 billion merger, citing concerns that it would stifle innovation and reduce consumers’ choices in the market for blood-based early cancer detection tests.


Apple's iPadOS is designated as a gatekeeper under the DMA

The EC has recognised Apple as a “gatekeeper” under the Digital Markets Act ("DMA”) regarding its iPadOS tablet operating system. Apple has six months to ensure iPadOS fully complies with the DMA’s obligations.


The EC initially investigated whether iPadOS qualified as a gatekeeper despite not meeting the standard thresholds. The investigation found that Apple's commercial user numbers surpassed the quantitative threshold, while its end-user numbers were near the threshold and expected to rise soon.


Brazil clarifies its stance on non-horizontal mergers

Brazil’s competition authority has released guidelines outlining its approach to non-horizontal mergers (mergers between companies at different levels of the supply chain). The guidelines clarify that a vertically merged company can only execute a foreclosure strategy if it has sufficient market power upstream (at the level where it supplies inputs). This is because downstream firms' purchase share in inputs (e.g., the amount/volume of raw materials they purchase) can be a better indicator of their foreclosure power than their downstream sales.


The US bans non-compete obligations on most workers

In a move to promote competition, innovation, and job flexibility, the US Federal Trade Commission has banned non-compete agreements for employees across the country. The rule allows non-compete agreements for senior executives to remain valid under certain circumstances, but for other employees, they are no longer enforceable.


A potential TikTok ban is on the horizon in the US

US President Joe Biden has signed a bill that could lead to a ban of TikTok, the popular social media app owned by the Chinese parent company, ByteDance. The bill gives ByteDance nine months to sell its ownership of TikTok to a US company or face a potential nationwide ban.


KFTC fined furniture makers for bid-rigging

The Korea Fair Trade Commission (“KFTC”) has fined 31 furniture manufacturers a total of USD 68.75 million for engaging in bid-rigging between 2012 and 2022. The manufacturers colluded on bid prices, winning companies, and fictitious bidders for tenders issued by construction companies. The KFTC has also ordered the companies to implement corrective measures to prevent future infringements.

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