The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
Facebook in EU antitrust crosshairs, online marketplace now under scrutiny. Facebook’s online marketplace has attracted scrutiny from EU antitrust regulators who are seeking details about its role vis-a-vis rivals in online classified ads, a questionnaire seen by Reuters showed. Launched in 2016, Facebook Marketplace is used by more than one in three Facebook users in the United States to buy and sell items, leveraging its large user base. Classified ads competitors have complained that Facebook has used its market power to give it an unfair competitive advantage, people familiar with the matter said. They have taken their grievances to the Commission, triggering the EU competition enforcer’s interest.
Google Wants Safeguards for Information in Antitrust Fight. Google fired its opening salvo in what is expected to be a protracted antitrust fight with four dozen states, demanding more protections before it hands over confidential business documents sought by investigators. In a petition filed on Thursday in Texas state court of Travis County, Google, along with its parent company Alphabet, sought a protective order against Ken Paxton, the attorney general of Texas, who is spearheading the multistate antitrust investigation into the company. The petition said Mr. Paxton had not provided sufficient safeguards for how his office shares Google’s sensitive business documents with outside consultants to the investigation. Google said some of those outside consultants were also working for competitors or complainants.
Apple Pay in EU antitrust spotlight as regulators seek details. Apple Inc faces more regulatory woes in Europe as EU antitrust regulators ask online sales companies whether they have been told to use its mobile payment service instead of rival services, an EU document seen by Reuters showed. In a questionnaire sent in August, the European Commission said it had information Apple may have restricted online payments for the purchase of goods and services made via merchant apps or websites, in breach of EU antitrust rules. Launched in October 2014, Apple’s mobile payment service Apple Pay is part of the company’s diversification from device sales. It is available in more than 50 countries worldwide, including in more than 20 EU countries.
FTC probes Altria for role in Juul executive changes. U.S. antitrust enforcers are probing Altria Group Inc for potentially exerting influence over electronic-cigarette maker Juul Labs Inc before winning approval for a big share buy, Altria said in a government filing on Thursday. Marlboro maker Altria purchased a 35% stake in Juul in December 2018 for $12.8 billion, but the shares are non-voting and the companies have not yet received antitrust approval for the transaction. Prior to antitrust approval, it is illegal for companies involved in mergers or similar transactions to coordinate in many areas.