The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
U.S. Justice Dept sets up anti-price collusion ‘strike force.’ The Justice Department said on Tuesday it had created a strike force that will identify and prosecute companies that fix prices or collude to push up the cost of billions of dollars’ worth of U.S. government purchases. The announcement follows the discovery that five South Korean companies had colluded in delivering oil to U.S. military bases. The Procurement Collusion Strike Force will be made up of the department’s Antitrust Division, 13 U.S. attorneys’ offices, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the offices of inspectors general from the Defense Department, Justice Department, General Services Administration and U.S. Postal Service. Its creation is a follow-up to the Justice Department’s announcement last year that it would be more aggressive in pressing antitrust charges against companies that rig bids for government contracts.
Top Antitrust Enforcer Warns Big Tech Over Data Collection. The Justice Department’s top antitrust official warned Big Tech companies Friday that the government could pursue them for anticompetitive behavior related to their troves of user data, including for cutting off data access to competitors. “Antitrust enforcers cannot turn a blind eye to the serious competition questions that digital markets have raised,” Assistant Attorney General Makan Delrahim told an antitrust conference at Harvard Law School. Delrahim said some of the most interesting and alarming legal issues raised by the rise of the digital economy are in the “collection, aggregation and commercial use of consumer data,” which he called “analogous to a new currency.” He said his office is studying “the ways market power can manifest in industries where data plays a key role,” particularly when large amounts of data are amassed that are “quite personal and unique in nature” and offers insight into “the most intimate aspects of human choice and behavior, including personal health, emotional well-being, civic engagement and financial fitness.
EU’s Vestager says Apple Pay has prompted many concerns. Apple Pay has attracted regulatory scrutiny as a result of several expressions of concern about the U.S. tech giant’s mobile payment service, Europe’s antitrust chief said on Thursday. Margrethe Vestager’s comments come after an EU questionnaire, seen by Reuters late last month, showed EU regulators had asked online merchants whether they had been told to use Apple Pay instead of competing services. “We’ve been asking quite a number of questions because we get many many concerns when it comes to Apple Pay for pure competition reasons,” said EU Competition Commissioner Vestager, without specifying who had expressed concern.
Benco, Patterson decline to appeal antitrust loss: FTC. Benco Dental Supply Co and Patterson Companies Inc. (PDCO.O) have decided not to appeal a judge’s decision that they violated antitrust law by declining to compete for the business of buying groups, the Federal Trade Commission said on Friday. The FTC accused the companies, two of the three largest U.S. full-service distributors of dental supplies ranging from chairs to cement to gloves, of violating antitrust law in February 2018. An FTC administrative law judge ruled last month that “there was an agreement between Benco and Patterson to refuse to offer discounted prices or otherwise negotiate with buying groups.” That agreement was illegal, the judge said.