Herbert Hovenkamp ‘Apple vs. Pepper: Rationalizing Antitrust’s Indirect Purchaser Rule’ (2020) Columbia Law Review Forum 120(1) 14

The simplest measure of loss caused by an antitrust infringement is the amount of the overcharge caused by a conduct. However, customers of the infringing party may be able to pass on this overcharge to their own customers, which means that indirect purchasers may also suffer loss. The US – unlike other countries – typically limits the ability to claim damages to direct purchasers for the amount of the relevant overcharge (typically trebled). In Apple Inc. v. Pepper, the Supreme Court held that consumers who allegedly paid too much for apps sold on Apple’s App Store because of an antitrust violation could sue Apple for damages because they were “direct purchasers”. The paper, available here, argues that, working within the context of applicable rules, the majority reached the right conclusion. At the same time, and while this judgment eliminates some of the irrationalities of the indirect purchaser rule as it has been applied, it hardly adopts a definite solution to the…

Andrew Gavil ‘Consumer welfare without consumers? Illinois Brick after Apple v Pepper’ (2019) Journal of Antitrust Enforcement 7 447

This essay, available here, examines the recent Apple v Pepper decision with a focus on two issues: its seeming rehabilitation of compensation principles and its approach to evaluating antitrust damages. Together, these two aspects of the Court’s reasoning may undermine the continued vitality of Illinois Brick’s decision not to allow indirect purchasers to claim for damages. The author argues that, although the Supreme Court formally retained Illinois Brick, the Court’s logic in explaining the nature of damages that flow from antitrust violations will prove hard to contain and difficult to reconcile with Illinois Brick’s simplistic conception of ‘pass-on’. That, in turn, will likely alter how parties litigate antitrust damage claims in ways likely to invite future challenges to Illinois Brick. Apple v Pepper also may have reopened long-simmering debates in the USA about how best to balance the twin remedial goals of deterrence and compensation. Given the evolution over four decades of a fairly intricate federal-state, public–private enforcement ecosystem in the USA,…

OECD competition policy responses to COVID-19

This policy brief, which you can find here, discusses how competition policy can help address the immediate challenges raised by the COVID-19 crisis, whilst looking to the post-pandemic future. It describes competition principles that governments can follow when designing support measures for the economy, and outlines actions competition authorities can take to address the challenges of the current crisis. Section A focuses on state interventions, while Section B focuses on competition enforcement actions in the short and medium term. A first section concern as regards state intervention is maintaining competitive neutrality. In times of extraordinary, and temporary, demand and supply shocks, governments can support consumers, workers and firms to weather the storm while ensuring readiness to resume economic activity once the crisis passes. This may take the form of grants, subsidies, bank guarantees or other state support. Nonetheless, there is a danger that state support may distort the playing field between companies that receive aid and their competitors that do…

Jorge Padilla and Nicolas Petit on ‘Competition policy and the Covid-19 opportunity’ (2020) Concurrences 2 1

Every economic crisis raises the same normative question for competition law. Should decision makers be temporarily more permissive in their application of the law to private and public restraints of competition? While historical evidence suggests that this is a bad idea, most economic crises since the 1970s led to some softening of competition law. In countries around the world, massive amounts of state aid have been injected into the economy. While such policies deserve praise in their concern for the protection of jobs, recessions have a “cleansing effect” which is desirable and can be dampened by such interventions. Recessions facilitate the exit of zombie firms that crowd out growth opportunities for more efficient competitors, and delay the diffusion of technological innovation. A case might thus be made that the current recession might be a source of opportunities for the EU economy, long trapped in a cycle of weak productivity, low economic dynamism and conspicuous absence of superstar firm creation. The…

Simmon Vande Walle ‘Private enforcement of antitrust law in Belgium and the Netherlands – is there a race to attract antitrust damages actions?’ (2018) in Pier L. Parcu, Giorgio Monti and Marco Botta (eds.) Private Enforcement of EU Competition Law (Elgar, 2018) 118

Since the Belgian and Dutch legal systems are relatively similar, one would expect similar levels of antitrust litigation. However, this is not the case, particularly as regards follow-on claims. This article, available here, tries to find explanations for this divergence. It argues that the boom in follow-on damages actions in the Netherlands can be explained by the receptive attitude of Dutch judges and lawyers to follow-on damages actions, in line with their receptive approach to complex litigation. Belgian courts, by contrast, have been less receptive to follow-on actions, probably because Belgian judges have a higher caseload than Dutch judges do. This represents something of a paradox: the Belgian courts are more accessible and attract more regular, run-of-the mill litigation but, precisely because of this, they are less receptive to new types of litigation such as follow-on damages actions, regardless of the benefits that these actions may bring to the economy. Section 2 presents data on private antitrust enforcement in Belgium and the…

Mario Siragusa and Alessandro Comino on ‘Private Antitrust Enforcement in Italy’ (2019) CPI June

Italy has a long-standing tradition of private antitrust enforcement. This piece, available here, provides an overview of Italy’s private enforcement regime, focusing on developments brought about by Italy’s implementation of the EU Damages Directive in early 2017. This reform introduced a number of substantive and procedural provisions to facilitate damages claims by victims of antitrust infringements. As a result, the authors expect private antitrust litigation in Italy, and particularly follow-on actions, to increase. The note begins with a description of how private enforcement changed following the implementation of the EU Damages Directive. The Italian legislator took advantage of the transposition of the Directive to reform the rules regarding disclosure of evidence. The Italian system already contained a provision regulating disclosure (Article 210 of the Civil Procedure Code). However, this provision required the party seeking disclosure to show that the evidence to be disclosed was necessary and indispensable for the case. In addition, the courts interpreted this provision narrowly as allowing them…

Lukas Rengier ‘Cartel Damages Actions in German Courts: What the Statistics Tell Us’ (2019) Journal of European Competition Law & Practice 1,

Germany is commonly mentioned as one of the three preferred jurisdictions for cartel damages actions in Europe, next to England and the Netherlands. The level of private enforcement is indeed quite high in Germany, and its growth is accelerating. Up until the end of 2018, there had been 119 judgments by German courts concerning cartel damages actions— 91 by district courts (i.e. first instance courts), 24 by regional courts (i.e. second instance courts), and four by the Federal Court of Justice. Many more lawsuits are currently pending—there is no public record, but the author counts approximately 650 pending cases in district courts alone. This article, available here, takes a closer look at the practical approach adopted by German courts to cartel damages claims by conducting a statistical analysis of these 119 judgments. Section I looks at the history of cartel damages actions in Germany. Cartel damages actions in Germany can be filed before 27 district courts. Seventeen higher regional courts deal with…

Miguel Sousa Ferro ‘The Playful State of Antitrust Damages Claims in the EU’ (2019) CPI September

This short note, available here, looks at the main developments in the two years since the European Damages Directive came into force. A first set of developments relates to the increasing case law of the European courts on private enforcement.A noticeable trend is a significant increase in the number of preliminary references to the European courts. One consequence of these appeals thus far is to lay bare how great the impact of EU law is on substantive and procedural national rules relating to competition damages actions. These preliminary references also showed the Court to be a friend to private enforcement and a defender of the effectiveness of EU law. This is most apparent in the recent Skanska decision. Strictly speaking, Skanska was a case concerning solely the liability of economic successors and parent undertakings for damages arising from a competition infringement by a different legal entity. The underlying question was whether the concept of undertaking that applies in public competition enforcement…

Felipe Irarrázabal ‘Competition and the plague’ (‘La libre competencia y la peste)

This piece is available here, but only in Spanish. The summary below reflects my own translation of the piece. Emergencies – such as wars and natural disasters – undermine the assumptions underpinning competition law and policy. Competition enforcement against cartels builds on the premise that fierce competition is highly beneficial for society, whereas firm cooperation will only create benefits in much more restricted situations. Competition enforcement also relies on legal procedures, which are by nature slow and lend themselves to sophisticated disputes. Covid-19 has forced authorities to enact exceptional regimes and pressured them to take urgent and even drastic measures. The coming economic recession will likely require similar measures. The main competition agencies in the world have started to react to this negative scenario. Several of them have declared that they will be alert to any possible violation of competition law. Others have specified that they will not accept excessive prices as a result of the crisis (although this legal…

Frederic Jenny ‘Economic Resilience, Globalization and Market Governance: Facing the Covid-19 Test’

Globalisation contributed to the rapid spread of COVID to all corners of the globe. The economic cost of fighting the virus froze a number of economies and disrupted global value chains, and is likely to be followed by several years of an economic depression that will dwarf the cost of the 2008 financial and economic crisis. The dramatic events of the first quarter of 2020 challenge some of the implicit assumptions underlying the design of our economic systems, and should make us think about some of the dilemmas and trade-offs that this crisis has foisted upon us. This piece, available as a working paper here,  is not mainly about competition – instead, it is a piece that thinks widely about the implications of this pandemic for the economic architecture underpinning globalisation, which also touches on competition. This is because, in the grand scheme of things, competition law and policy plays a relatively limited role when markets are not in equilibrium,…