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Two-minute Recap of Competition Law Matters Around the Globe – October 2023

Alphabet provides data commitments in Germany

The Federal Cartel Office of Germany has secured data commitments from Alphabet, Google's parent company, allowing users of services with over one million monthly users, such as Gmail and Google News, to control how their data is utilised. This supplements Alphabet's existing Digital Markets Act gatekeeper obligations, which are set to expand in March 2024. As part of its commitments, Google will provide users with the ability to opt out of or limit the sharing of their personal information across its services, including data collected directly by Google and data acquired from third parties.

Italian Competition Authority violated the procedural rights of parties

The Italian Competition Authority has been found to violate parties' procedural rights under the European Convention on Human Rights by significantly delaying the opening of a formal investigation into a road construction cartel. The Regional Administrative Court of Lazio ruled that the delay was unjustified, and it did not wait for a European Court of Justice ruling regarding the 90-day deadline for opening investigations. The court also annulled fines imposed on certain companies due to the authority's delayed probe.

The Microsoft/Activision saga is finally over

The approved deal allows Microsoft to finalise the acquisition, ending a lengthy and contentious process. Microsoft will divest Activision's cloud gaming rights outside the European Economic Area (“EEA”) to Ubisoft, addressing competition concerns raised by the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority (“CMA”).

Czech Republic steps up its focus on the labour market

Two Czech travel agency associations have ceased promoting non-compete clauses among their members as a response to the national competition authority's labour market investigation, which objected to these clauses. The authority did not issue an infringement decision, considering it the first labour market case, but emphasised its focus on wage-fixing and no-poach agreements, as it views these agreements as de facto market-sharing practices.

Boehringer settles another cartel claim

After agreeing a settlement with the Brazilian Competition Authority over a cartel investigation, which we have covered in the previous month, Boehringer Ingelheim has also accepted to pay EUR 13.4 million to the European Commission (“EC”) in a different case for participating in a global cartel fixing the price of an essential stomach medicine. The cartel members allocated quotas for the drug and exchanged sensitive information, with illegal conduct spanning the EEA from November 2005 to September 2019.

European Commission’s fine annulled by EU General Court

Bulgaria's state-owned gas supplier, Bulgarian Energy Holding, has successfully overturned a EUR 77 million fine imposed by the EC for allegedly restricting access to the country's gas infrastructure. The EU General Court ruled in favour of the company, stating that the EC failed to demonstrate that Bulgarian Energy Holding and its subsidiaries denied access to the domestic gas transmission network, storage facility, and import pipeline.

Two abuse of dominance cases in China

Amazon is facing a second abuse of dominance lawsuit in China related to conduct in Europe, with both cases contesting the applicability of China's Anti-Monopoly Law. An Amazon merchant filed a lawsuit alleging that Amazon violated abuse of dominance rules by terminating its Marketplace account. Another lawsuit was filed earlier by a Chinese e-commerce company, Guangzhou Mengbian Information Technology. The Chinese court found that the Anti-Monopoly Law applies to anticompetitive conduct outside of China if it affects domestic competition.

British production companies are under investigation

The CMA is investigating the BBC, ITV and several production companies for possible breaches of competition rules in relation to their use of freelance services in the production, creation and broadcasting of television content. The investigations may include concerns about wage fixing.

CMA probe targets low-cost airlines in the UK

Online travel agency On the Beach has petitioned the CMA to investigate low-cost airlines such as Ryanair, Easyjet and Jet2 for alleged anti-competitive practices. On the Beach claims that these airlines are using aggressive tactics to limit consumer choice and harm online travel agencies (“OTAs”) by blocking OTA bookings, reducing seat-only sales, and using excessive identity verification procedures. The Italian Competition Authority is already investigating Ryanair for similar allegations.

Criminal charges for bid rigging in Canada

Two former sales managers of Coco Asphalt, an asphalt company, could face up to 14 years in prison in Canada for allegedly colluding to rig bids for a public highway construction tender in 2021, issued by Québec's Ministry of Transport.

 

For further information please contact Bulut Girgin, Partner, at bgirgin@gentemizerozer.comSimru Tayfun, Associate, at stayfun@gentemizerozer.com, Orçun Horozoğlu, Associate, at ohorozog@gentemizerozer.com or Umut Aydoğan, Associate, at uaydogan@gentemizerozer.com.