The Antitrust Week In Review
Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.
Exclusive: Facebook and Google could lose bargaining power under upcoming U.S. bill to help news outlets. Bipartisan members of Congress plan to introduce a bill in coming weeks to make it easier for smaller news organizations to negotiate with Big Tech platforms, said Rep. Ken Buck, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee’s antitrust panel. The U.S. bill would be introduced at a time when Australia is in a pitched battle with Facebook. The social media giant blocked news feeds and other pages – including those of charities, and health and emergency services – as part of a dispute over a proposed law that would require it and Google to pay news outlets whose links drive traffic to their platforms, or agree on a price through arbitration.
Are Broker Commissions Too High? Forty-four percent of new home buyers now begin their home search online as opposed to through referrals, according to the National Association of Realtors. The same organization found that 35 percent of brokers say they are relying on virtual tours to sell homes. And yet, despite technology shifting the power dynamic from brokers to buyers in the real estate industry, real estate commissions — notoriously higher in the United States than in other developed countries — haven’t budged. But over the past two years, seven different lawsuits, brought by private home sellers, an online brokerage and groups of California brokers, and even the U.S. Justice Department, contend that brokers’ practices in charging and collecting commissions violate U.S. antitrust laws and amount to a conspiracy to keep their fees artificially inflated.
US judge dismisses aluminum antitrust claims. A U.S. judge on Wednesday narrowed a long-running antitrust case where aluminum purchasers accused Goldman Sachs , JPMorgan Chase and the mining company Glencore of conspiring to drive up the metal’s price by reducing supply. U.S. District Judge Paul Engelmayer said many purchasers lacked standing to sue because they had bought aluminum primarily from smelters such as Alcoa and Rio Tinto Alcan rather than directly from the defendants, and thus did not qualify as “efficient enforcers” of antitrust laws. In a 66-page decision, the Manhattan judge also said pricing decisions by the smelters appeared to be a big factor in the prices ultimately charged, and that those prices were “not the inevitable result of defendants’ alleged conspiracy.”
Epic Games steps up Apple fight with EU antitrust complaint. Fortnite creator Epic Games has taken its fight against Apple to European Union antitrust regulators, escalating its dispute with the iPhone maker over its App Store payment system and control over app downloads. The two companies have been in a dispute since August, when the game maker tried to avoid Apple’s 30% fee on some in-app purchases on the App Store by launching its own in-app payment system. That prompted Apple to kick Epic’s Fortnite game off the App Store and threaten to terminate an affiliated account that would have effectively blocked distribution of Unreal Engine, a software tool used by hundreds of app makers to create games. Epic Games founder and Chief Executive Tim Sweeney said Apple’s control of its platform had tilted the level playing field.
Edited by Gary J. Malone