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…

Pablo Ibanez Colomo and Alfonso Lamadrid ‘On the notion of restriction of competition: what we know and what we don’t know we know’

This paper is published in Gerard, Merola and Meyring, Bernd, (eds.) The Notion of Restriction of Competition: Revisiting the Foundations of Antitrust Enforcement in Europe. (Bruylant), and can be found here. One  who is not familiar with competition law would presume that the concept of restriction of competition must surely be well established, as otherwise how can one identify those practices that restrict competition? As anyone who is closer to the action knows , the concept is not really that well established in practice. This paper’s argument is that there is much greater consensus about the concept of restriction of competition in the EU that is usually acknowledged. Instead of presenting a normative view of what a “restriction of competition” should be, this piece systematically reviews the incremental contributions that the EU courts have made to the definition of the notion of restriction of competition, and finds broad agreement around some fundamental questions. In order to do this, the paper is…

Daniel Sokol ‘Troubled Waters Between U.S. and European Antitrust’

This is an article-length review of The Atlantic Divide in Antitrust: An Examination of US and EU Competition Policy by Daniel J. Gifford and Robert T. Kudrle, a book on the differences between EU and American antitrust. It was published in the Michigan Law Review, and can be found at https://repository.law.umich.edu/mlr/vol115/iss6/10/. The review is interesting because: (I) it provides an overview of the book and its arguments, which is quite useful; (II) it describes how the different goals of antitrust and institutional framework on both sides of the pond lead to different enforcement priorities and allocation of powers to enforcement agencies; (iii) it assesses in some detail how single firm conduct is differently pursued on both sides of the Atlantic; and (iv) it compares different enforcement practices regarding cartels in Europe and the US. The main argument of both the book and the article is that: “With its steadfast economic focus, antitrust in the United States has a clear goal. In…

Giorgio Monti and Goncalo Banha Coelho ‘Geo-Blocking Between Competition Law And Regulation’

This paper – available at https://www.competitionpolicyinternational.com/geo-blocking-between-competition-law-and-regulation – looks at the European Commission’s initiative to prevent geo-blocking. As I understand it, this is a short version of a larger report requested by the European institutions. Geo-blocking refers to those practices by sellers which make it costly or impossible for consumers with residence in one Member State to obtain goods and services from other Member States. They also include the rerouting of customers away from websites hosted in other Member States to a website hosted in the Member State from where they are based (e.g. customers in Italy rerouted from a “.pt” version of an online store to its “.it” version), without their consent. The paper begins with a review of the main rules in European Competition law devoted to the prevention of restrictions to cross-border competition – which cover mainly contractual restrictions to this type of trade (Art. 101 TFEU) or abuse of dominant position (Art. 102 TFEU). However, no rules…

Francisco Costa-Cabral, Orla Lynskey, ‘Family ties: The intersection between data protection and competition in EU law’

This article – published in (2017) Common Market Law Review 54 11 – looks at the relationship between privacy and competition law (in the EU). The authors state that, instead of getting into a discussion of whether public policy considerations regarding data privacy should be considered as part of consumer welfare, they are looking instead at the elective affinities between privacy and competition law. Curiously, they seem to reach a conclusion related to competition assessment (i.e. the impact of data protection on consumer welfare): “data protection conditions offered to individuals can reflect the parameters of quality, choice, and innovation” The paper makes two primary arguments:  that data protection law– a framework designed to identify and achieve an optimal level of personal data protection – can provide the normative guidance that competition law lacks in relation to non-price competitive parameters;  it develops a normative benchmark to assess whether certain competition law commitments and remedies should be accepted. The structure of the paper…

Elisabeth de Ghellinck ‘The As-Efficient-Competitor Test

This paper, published in the Journal of European Competition Law & Practice and available at https://academic.oup.com/jeclap/article-abstract/7/8/544/2194480, looks at the as efficient competitor test (known as AEC by its acquaintances) – the economic test that refuses to come to life (and God knows that some have tried to breathe life into it). After the European Commission tried to make this test the cornerstone of its enforcement activities on abusive practices (in its Guidance on Enforcement Priorities for Exclusionary Practices), and the European Courts first dismissed the relevance of the test in virtually all scenarios (Post Danmark II) before saying that it may actually be useful under certain circumstances (Intel), we have this piece is by an economist trying to identify when the test can be useful. A number of conclusions are reached, in particular:  it is sensible to decide that an AEC test is not a prerequisite for establishing the abusive character of a retroactive rebate scheme, since such a test can only…

Wouter Wils ‘The Use of Leniency in EU Cartel Enforcement: An Assessment After Twenty Years’

This paper by Wouter Wils – available at https://www.concurrences.com/en/review/numeros/no-1-2017/articles/the-use-of-leniency-in-eu-cartel-enforcement-an-assessment-after-twenty-years – describes  20 years of leniency in Europe. In addition to some interesting statistics, it contains an overview of arguments for and against the use of leniency. It is useful for anyone doing bid-rigging / promoting the virtues of competition, but putting at risk the job of thousands of trainee lawyers who will no longer have a job searching for examples of the practical application of  leniency by the European Commission.