Two-minute Recap of Global Competition Law Matters - May 2024



DoJ sues Live Nation-Ticketmaster for alleged antitrust violations

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) sued Ticketmaster, and its parent company Live Nation, alleging its market monopoly hurts fans, artists and competitors by driving up ticket prices, stifling innovation and constraining artists, venues and ticketing systems. Live Nation denies the allegations claiming declining market share and fair pricing. A customer has also filed a separate class action lawsuit against Live Nation’s allegedly high ticket fees.

Shifting Landscape: NCAA agrees to settlement in athlete pay dispute

The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) announced settlement of three federal antitrust cases with the Power Five college athletic conferences (which govern the highest level of collegiate American football in the USA). The lawsuits claimed that athletes lost potential revenue due to being unable to use their names, images, and likenesses (NIL) which unfairly restricts competition by limiting student-athletes’ ability to negotiate NIL deals with colleges. Per the settlement, the NCAA will be required to pay retrospective damages to student-athletes, going back to 2016, totalling up to nearly USD 2.8 billion dollars over the next ten years. Additionally, conferences and schools will be allowed to pay athletes directly. Athletes who wish to participate in a future revenue sharing agreement will reciprocally waive their rights to sue the NCAA.

Argentina cracks down on cartels with new whistleblower program

Argentina’s National Commission for Competition Defence launched a new programme to incentivize whistleblowers and strengthen antitrust enforcement offering immunity or reduced fines to undertakings which admit involvement in cartels and provide related evidence. The initiative is expected to be a powerful tool for dismantling illegal cartels.

The European Commission fines Mondelez for breach of antitrust rules

The European Commission has fined Mondelez EUR 337.5 million for “hindering the crossborder trade” of several products in breach of EU competition rules. The Commission states that there were infringements in three areas: 1) “Anti-competitive agreements or concerted practices” aiming to hinder the cross-border trade of various products. 2) Abuse of “dominant position” for the sale of products in certain countries. 3) According to the Commission: “Mondelez’s practices prevented retailers from freely sourcing products in Member States with lower prices and artificially partitioned the internal market”.

UK approves Vodafone-Three Merger with security conditions

The UK government has conditionally approved the merger of Vodafone and Three (two of the UK’s four mobile network operators alongside EE and O2). The approval is dependent on the creation of a national security committee to oversee sensitive activities which will regularly update the government and monitor cyber, physical and personnel security. Please note that the Competition & Markets Authority continues to investigate the merger.

UK Parliament passes important new competition bill

The Digital Markets, Competition and Consumers Bill brings significant changes to UK competition law:

Higher turnover thresholds: Undertakings with a UK turnover below GBP 100 million will not require merger approval.

“Acquirer focused” threshold: Transactions involving a buyer with a minimum 33% market share and turnover above GBP 350m+ may require review even where there is no direct competition overlap. This targets “killer acquisitions” that stifle future competition.

De minimis for small mergers: Transactions where both parties’ turnover is below GBP 10 million are exempt from filing.

Clearer extra-territorial powers: The Competition & Markets Authority will be able to investigate suspected anti-competitive practices taking place outside the UK if they impact the UK market.

South Korea focuses on self-preferencing in music streaming deal

South Korea’s antitrust watchdog approved Kakao’s acquisition of a stake in major music company SM Entertainment. This is a first for the regulator, which also ordered the formation of an independent committee to monitor Melon, Kakao’s music platform, from favouring SM music over competitors. The decision reflects growing concerns regarding dominant digital platforms and aims to protect competition in the Korean music industry.

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