The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
EU says card fee curbs are working, retailers want more. Caps on the fees retailers pay to process debit and credit card transactions have helped push down prices, EU antitrust regulators said, but merchants called for even tighter limits. The Interchange Fee Regulation (IFR), which was triggered by a lengthy battle between retailers and payments groups including Visa and Mastercard, limits debit card fees at 0.2 percent of the transaction value and credit card fees at 0.3% of the transaction value. “Interchange fees for consumer cards have decreased, leading to reduced merchants’ charges for card payments, and ultimately resulting in improved services to consumers and lower consumer prices,” the European Commission said in a report.
U.S. antitrust agencies release guidelines for vertical deals. The U.S. Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission, which investigate proposed mergers to ensure they are legal, issued guidelines on Tuesday codifying current practice in their probes of so-called vertical mergers, which combine a company and a supplier. Of the thousands of deals reported to the government each year, only a handful are stopped and a smaller number of vertical deals create antitrust concern. When it does happen, it is often because concern that that supplier would stop supplying rivals. The new guidelines “explain our investigative practices as we apply them today and have applied them in recent years,” said Makan Delrahim, chief of the Justice Department’s antitrust division.
Sigma-Aldrich, not Merck gave misleading info in deal review, EU says. U.S. drugmaker Sigma-Aldrich provided incorrect and misleading information during an antitrust review of its 2015 takeover by Merck KGaA (MRCG.DE), EU regulators said on Wednesday as they dropped the German company from their investigation. The European Commission said it had sent a supplementary statement of objections or charge sheet to Sigma-Aldrich. The Commission can fine companies up to 1% of their global turnover for such offences. The issue focused on Sigma’s innovation project for chemicals, which formed part of the EU watchdog’s review of the deal with Merck.
EU antitrust regulators to rule on Mastercard’s Scandinavian e-pay deal by August 3. EU antitrust regulators will decide by Aug. 3 whether to clear Mastercard Inc.’s bid for part of Scandinavian payments group Nets, according to a European Commission filing. Mastercard’s planned acquisition of European rival Nets’ three divisions covering corporate clearing, instant payments and e-billing, has already triggered regulatory concerns. The EU competition enforcer, which agreed to review the deal following requests from Austria, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Sweden and Britain, in April said the deal threatens to significantly affect competition in the Nordic area, Europe and Britain.
Edited by Gary J. Malone