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Two-minute Recap of Competition Law Matters Around the Globe – July 2022

FTC to block Meta’s VR Deal

The United States Federal Trade Commission has filed a complaint to block Meta’s acquisition of Within Unlimited, a virtual reality company and developer of the Supernatural virtual reality fitness app, on the grounds that it would substantially harm competition in the development of virtual reality fitness apps. The FTC argues that instead of trying to compete against Within, Meta decided to acquire the company.

Will the Commission find the holy GRAIL?

A year ago, the European Commission took the Illumina/GRAIL transaction into Phase II review over concerns that the proposed deal may reduce competition and innovation in the market for the development and commercialisation of cancer detection tests based on sequencing technologies. A month into the Phase II review, the Commission opened an investigation to assess whether Illumina breached the so-called “standstill obligation”. The Commission, in its Statement of Objections issued on 19 July 2022, takes the preliminary view that Illumina and GRAIL violated the suspension requirement and implemented the acquisition before the Commission had concluded its in-depth investigation. While the sending of a Statement of Objections does not prejudge the final outcome of the investigation, if the Commission were to conclude that Illumina and GRAIL did actually implement the transaction prior to the conclusion of the Commission's in-depth investigation, it could impose a fine of up to 10% of each company’s annual worldwide turnover. 

Google loses appeal against EUR 102 million fine in Italy

The Rome Administrative Court has upheld the Italian Competition Authority’s EUR 102 million fine on Google for abusing its dominant position in the smart car market by restricting the development of an electric vehicle charging app developed by energy solutions provider Enel X.

Another multi-million dollar fine from Moscow

The Russian authorities have undertaken an increasingly assertive campaign against foreign tech companies. The country’s competition watchdog, the Federal Antimonopoly Service, recently fined Alphabet's Google RUB 2 billion (EUR 32.6 million) for abusing its dominant position in the video hosting services market by using “opaque” terms and conditions to arbitrarily suspend and block YouTube accounts.

Introduction of a new administrative fine regime in Ireland

The long-awaited change to Ireland’s competition law, which equips the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission with powers to issue administrative monetary fines for the first time, has officially been approved.

China fines tech giants over gun-jumping

The State Administration for Market Regulation in China has fined 12 companies, including tech giants Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent, the maximum amount possible for failing to notify a total of 28 transactions dating back to 2011.

Amazon plans to expand its presence in the healthcare sector

Amazon announced that it is acquiring One Medical, a chain of primary care clinics in the United States that operates a network of medical offices and also provides virtual medical offices, for USD 3.9 billion. With regards to the healthcare sector, Amazon already acquired the online pharmacy company Pillpack in 2018, launched Amazon Pharmacy in 2020, and also formed Amazon Care, which is used to connect with clinicians. It should be noted that Amazon Web Services stores health data for many hospitals and healthcare systems. The value of the acquisition triggers the threshold for it to be notified to the Federal Trade Commission and the US Justice Department. It will be interesting to see how the antitrust regulators will assess the deal.

Six construction companies fined in Spain for rigging bids over 25 years

Spain’s National Commission of Markets and Competition concluded a major investigation into the construction sector, where it found that six of the country’s leading construction companies exchanged competitively sensitive information and rigged public tenders for projects over a 25-year period starting in 1992. The authority imposed a combined EUR 203.6 million fine on the relevant undertakings.

UK’s CMA opens a probe against sports broadcasters concerning wage-fixing

Continuing with the trend worldwide regarding competition law concerns in the labour market, the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority dipped their toes in the water by launching their first such cartel investigation against four sports broadcasters with suspicions of wage-fixing for freelance workers.

Brazil to sanction the bar association for price-fixing

Brazil’s Administrative Council for Economic Defence, CADE, is preparing to impose sanctions on the National Bar Association for publishing a pricing table for minimum fee rates for certain legal services.

For further information please contact Bulut Girgin, Counsel, at bgirgin@gentemizerozer.com, Simru Tayfun, Associate, at stayfun@gentemizerozer.com, or Orçun Horozoğlu, Associate, at ohorozog@gentemizerozer.com