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

08.07.2024

Contents

Korea’s Fair Trade Commission fines Coupang for self-preferencing

E-commerce platform Coupang was fined a record 140 billion won (EUR 94.5 million) by the Korea Fair Trade Commission for manipulating search results to favour its own private brand products over competitors. This is the agency’s largest fine for self-preferencing practices and demonstrates its resolve to stop unfair competitive conduct.

Abuse of dominance class action against Valve in the UK

Valve, owner of the software distribution platform Steam, is subject to a GBP 656 million class action brought before the UK’s Competition Appeal Tribunal. The action alleges that Valve abused its dominance via “most favourite customer” clauses which force publishers to offer the lowest prices on Steam. It is further claimed that Valve charges excessive commission (up to 30 percent) and prevents developers from offering users alternative payment options.

EU scrutiny of Microsoft and OpenAI partnership

The European Commission investigated Microsoft’s USD 13 billion investment in OpenAI and decided it was not a merger requiring its approval. However, exclusivity provisions in the deal attracted attention with further information requested demonstrating the Commission’s diligence in monitoring acquisitions and collaborations that could affect competition in the AI market. The Commission is also looking into other partnerships (e.g. Google and Samsung, Amazon and Anthropic) and hiring practices in the AI industry.

ECJ rules against pharma companies for pay-for-delay agreements

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) agreed with most of the European Commission’s findings in its cases against Servier and fellow pharmas Lupin, Niche Generics, Unichem Laboratories, Matrix, Teva, Krka and Biogaran. Agreements between the companies delayed production of the Servier’s generic version of a blood pressure medication based on perindopril and prevented its entry to the market. While the ECJ mostly upheld the fines imposed, it partially overturned the General Court’s decision reducing the fine imposed on Servier after disagreeing with its assessment that the Commission’s relevant market definition was too narrow. The case has now been referred back to the General Court in light of the ECJ’s decision.

First fine for deletion of WhatsApp messages during dawn raid in the EU

Cosmetics company International Flavors & Fragrances (IFF) was fined EUR 15.9 million by the European Commission after a senior employee deleted WhatsApp messages during a dawn raid investigating alleged price-fixing. It was found that the employee deleted work- related messages on being informed of the raid.

While the data was recovered, the attempt to hide information resulted in a fine. IFF admitted fault and helped recover the data leading to a reduction of the fine.

Semiconductor deal approved in China following record clock stop

China’s antitrust agency, State Administration for Market Regulation, took an exceptionally long time to approve a merger between two Japanese semiconductor companies. The 511- day review included a record 11-month pause for negotiations. To obtain approval, the companies agreed to avoid harming competition in China by not bundling products, imposing unfair conditions, or changing product compatibility in a way that harms other businesses.

NFL faces USD 4.7bn damages for overpricing

A federal jury in California found the National Football League (NFL) liable for overcharging “Sunday Ticket” service customers. They ruled that the NFL conspired with teams to inflate prices for both homes and businesses awarding damages of USD 4.7 billion. The NFL’s collusion with broadcast partners is alleged to have affected more than 2.4 million residential and 48,000 commercial customers between 2011 and 2023. The organisation could be required to pay over USD 14 billion if a judge triples the damages as stipulated by US antitrust law.

Class action against Amazon for its practices in distribution of audiobooks

A class action has been filed against Amazon alleging abuse of its dominant position in the audiobook distribution market by charging authors at least 60% of the sales price for exclusive distribution (and even 75% for non- exclusive distribution) thus infringing antitrust rules and suppressing competition. The lawsuit seeks class action status for impacted writers and rights holders as well as damages.

First in-depth EU investigation into  foreign subsidies

The European Commission is investigating the acquisition of European telecommunications player PPF by UAE state-controlled telecoms operator e&. The Commission has preliminary concerns regarding e&’s potential receipt of foreign subsidies which may have had a distorting effect on the market. It will determine if this financial aid affected the acquisition process, by allowing e& to outbid competitors, and if it created unfair conditions due to e&’s increased size and financial strength. This is the first major investigation under new regulations to ensure a level playing field for businesses operating in the EU. The Commission has until mid-October 2024 to make its judgment.

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