How to define two-sided markets? Ohio v American Experess

A recent US Supreme Court decision is  likely to have an impact on antitrust practice: Ohio v American Express 585 U. S. [to be determined] (2018), available here. In short, the case is about the correct antitrust treatment of anti-steering provisions introduced by American Express (Amex) into its contracts with merchants. The United States and several States (collectively, the plaintiffs) sued Amex, claiming that its anti-steering provisions violate §1 of the Sherman Act. The District Court agreed, finding that the credit-card market should be treated as two separate markets—one for merchants and one for cardholders—and that Amex’s anti-steering provisions are anticompetitive because they prevent competition in the merchant side of the market and results in higher merchant fees. The Second Circuit reversed; it determined that the credit-card market is a single market, not two separate ones; and that Amex’s anti-steering provisions did not infringe the Sherman Act. You may remember that I reviewed the Circuit court decision almost two years…

Sainsbury’s Supermarkets Ltd v Visa Europe Services LLC & Anor [2017] EWHC 3047 (Comm)

This case – which can be found here – concerns multilateral interchange fees (‘MIF’) yet again. This is one of a number of cases where courts had to decide whether such fees were lawful (for examples, see the cases reviewed in my posts of 30 September 2016, 10 February and 24 March 2017). This one, Sainsbury’s v Visa, is a decision about the lawfulness of Visa’s scheme. The case was brought under the shadow of decisions by the European Commission and a number of courts holding that MasterCard’s MIF scheme was unlawful. In order to understand this case, it is important to first understand how the various credit card systems operate. There are two main credit card models: On the one hand we have three-party schemes, like the ones operated by American Express and Dinner’s Club. In a three-party scheme, the operator (such as American Express) both issues cards and settles transactions with merchants. In other words, when an American…

Cento Veljanowski “Credit Cards, Counterfactuals, and Antitrust Damages” Journal of European Competition Law & Practice (2018) 9(3) 146–160

This paper – which can be found here – provides an overview of the UK MasterCard litigation. Mr. Veljanowski is likely very well placed to discuss this:  he was one of the two economic experts involved in a case recently decided by the CAT on the matter. He also seems to publish a paper about every court decision concerning the MasterCard litigation (see my post of 24 March 2017, regarding the Arcadia v MasterCard case). The paper begins with a quick overview of the MasterCard litigation. As a result of the European Commission’s MasterCard decision, there are currently about 25 separate standalone and follow-on retailer actions making their way through the English courts concerning MasterCard and Visa’s card systems’ interchange fees. The first decision in these cases was adopted by the CAT last year (Sainsbury v MasterCard). The second one was the Arcadia v MasterCard case I posted about on 10 February. There are also more recent decisions by the…

Asda Stores Ld & Ors v MasterCard 2017 EWHC 93 (Comm)

This decision – available here – concerns a standalone claim for damages against MasterCard brought before the English courts. As some of you will know, disputes over the legality of Multilateral Interchange Fees (MIFs) and various payment card-schemes has been ongoing for well over a decade.  In the US, it included a decision on the legality of the American Express System which has found its way to the Supreme Court docket. In this case, which follows a decision by the European Commission – but is not a follow on claim since the practices in question, while similar, are not the same ones that were subject to the Commission’s decision – the English courts had to decide whether the level at which MasterCard set its MIFs was illegal, and hence whether damages are due. You may be pleased to hear that the decision is long and complicated – if nothing else, because it conducts an in-depth effects based assessment that hinges…