Competition law update | May 2017


Written on 26 May 2017

Active enforcement continues to be the mantra across the EU competition landscape, with competition authorities across the EU showing no signs of reducing their activity levels, even in areas that have been in focus for some time.

  •  In a rare interventionist move, the European Commission blocked London Stock Exchange’s proposed “merger of equals” with Deutsche Börse, Germany’s main stock exchange in Frankfurt.
  • The Commission has also released its report on the effect of commitments given by online travel agencies in relation to rate parity clauses, confirming that this is an area that it will continue to monitor closely (and little wonder, given how many consumers across the EU are affected by these clauses).
  • At the end of March, the Italian Antitrust Authority closed its investigation into Nuovo IMAIE (the institution managing the rights of artists, interpreters and performers) for alleged abuse of its dominant position, with no finding of wrongdoing. However, within weeks, the IAA announced it was investigating another copyright management organisation, SIAE, again for suspected abuse of dominance. That investigation is ongoing.
  • In the UK, the proposed acquisition of Hungryhouse by JustEat, two of the country’s largest online food ordering companies, has come under detailed scrutiny. The Competition and Markets Authority has announced that it will proceed to a six month Phase 2 investigation of the acquisition, as the parties failed to address satisfactorily concerns raised during Phase 1.
  • Last, but by no means least, the Commission has published its final report into its enquiry into the e-commerce sector. In it, they highlighted both the benefits and competition issues around e-commerce, but whether any particular action will be taken remains to be seen.

European Commission prohibits merger between Deutsche Börse and London Stock Exchange

The Commission has taken the unusual step of completely blocking the proposed merger between Deutsche Börse and the London Stock Exchange. The merger would have created by far the largest stock exchange in Europe. However, the Commission concluded that it could not be allowed to proceed as it would create an effective monopoly in the clearing of fixed income instruments.

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European Commission releases results of survey into remedies relating to rate parity clauses

Back in spring 2015, Booking.com gave commitments to the Commission in relation to rate parity clauses in respect of hoteliers. The Commission has now released the results of its survey of hotels into the effect of this commitment. While the survey has its limitations, it nonetheless highlights that the issue is still high on the Commission’s agenda.

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Italy | IAA and Council of Ministers concerned with collective copyright management

Within weeks of closing one investigation into an organisation (Nuovo IMAIE) involved in collective copyright management, the Italian Antitrust Authority has opened an investigation into another – SIAE. At the same time, the Council of Ministers approved the implementation of Directive 2014/26/EU, which seeks to coordinate the national rules relating to these types of organisations.

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UK | JustEat’s Hungryhouse acquisition comes under increased scrutiny

Following its initial Phase 1 review, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority could not rid itself of concerns that the proposed merger of two of the UKs largest online food ordering businesses would result in significantly reduced competition in the takeaway food delivery market. The parties failed to satisfy the CMA that competition would not be adversely affected and, consequently, the transaction will now be subjected to detailed scrutiny under the UK’s rigorous six month Phase 2 merger review process.

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European Commission publishes final report into the e-commerce sector

The European Commission has now published its final report on its enquiry into the e-commerce sector. In it, the Commission highlights that there are some benefits to e-commerce, including price transparency and the ease with which customers can switch between e-commerce platforms. While the report raises a number of concerns – and makes vaguely threatening noises about further investigations – what follow-up action, if any, is taken on these issues remains to be seen.

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*This article is current as of the date of its publication and does not necessarily reflect the present state of the law or relevant regulation.