The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
Netflix looms large as theater owners assess industry future. As movie theater owners converge on Las Vegas for their annual convention, one topic that keeps coming up is how they contend with a company that has resisted their traditional business model: Netflix Inc. The world’s most successful streaming service sends some movies to theaters, but has insisted on making them available on Netflix at the same time, or just a few weeks later. That has upset big movie chains, which refuse to show Netflix films and want a longer “window” of time to play films exclusively. The U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust chief, Makan Delrahim, has warned the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the group that hands out the Oscars, that any changes that limited eligibility for the industry’s highest honors “may raise antitrust concerns,” according to Variety.
VW, BMW and Daimler Hindered Clean-Air Technology, European Regulator Says. Germany’s three largest carmakers secretly agreed not to compete on key components of their pollution controls, violating antitrust laws and contributing to bad air quality, European authorities said Friday, a finding that could expose Volkswagen, Daimler and BMW to a large share of the blame for poor air quality in Europe that is believed to cause thousands of deaths annually. The preliminary decision by the European Commission escalates a scandal that began in 2015 when Volkswagen confessed that it had equipped millions of vehicles in Europe and the United States with software designed to dupe emissions testers. If the finding published Friday is confirmed, the carmakers could face billions of euros in fines.
U.S. judge expecting CVS merger hearing for May. A U.S. federal judge reviewing an agreement between the government and CVS Health Corp. allowing the pharmacy chain to buy health insurer Aetna indicated on Friday that he wanted to hold a hearing in May to hear from critics of the $69 billion deal. Judge Richard Leon of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia said in a court hearing that he would likely take a week to hear from the American Medical Association and other opponents of the transaction, which closed in November. Other critics included the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, pharmacy and consumer groups.
EU charges six video game companies with unfair ‘geo-blocking’. The European Commission charged Valve, the owner of a video distribution platform, and five game publishers on Friday with preventing EU consumers from shopping around within the European Union to find the best deal for the games they offer. The case is the latest move by EU antitrust regulators against cross-border curbs on online trade, key to what is seen as a major part of economic growth in the 28-country bloc. The Commission, which oversees competition policy in the 28 EU countries, said that the companies were Valve Corp., the owner of the world’s largest video game distribution platform ‘Steam,’ and five game makers – Bandai Namco, Capcom, Focus Home, Koch Media and ZeniMax.