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The Antitrust Week In Review

Posted  November 23, 2020

Here are some of the developments in antitrust news this past week that we found interesting and are following.

Facebook probe in final stages as FTC, U.S. states prepare lawsuits.  The Federal Trade Commission and a bipartisan group of dozens of state attorneys general are in the final stages of filing one or more major antitrust complaints against Facebook Inc. FB.O in early December, according to four sources familiar with the situation.  FTC staff undertaking a probe of the company has recommended to commissioners that they sue the social media company in federal court, which would allow the group of states, led by New York, to join the lawsuit, according to one source.  As many as 41 states may sign on to the lawsuit, three sources said. The filing of the lawsuit or lawsuits could slip into next year, the sources said.

Apple Halves Its App Store Fee for the Smaller Companies.  Apple, facing growing antitrust scrutiny over what it charges other companies for access to its App Store, said on Wednesday that it would cut in half the fee it took from the smallest app developers.  Developers that brought in $1 million or less from their apps in the previous year will pay a 15 percent commission on those app sales starting next year, down from 30 percent, the company said.  The move, which will have little impact on Apple’s bottom line, is an abrupt change from the company’s public intransigence over its fees.  For 12 years, the App Store has helped fuel Apple’s remarkable growth, and the company has appeared reluctant to do anything to tamper with it.  Even when its fee policy emerged as the focus of antitrust complaints, Apple aggressively defended it.

Tech groups’ services could face bans if they breach rules, EU industry chief says.  Technology companies’ services could be banned from the European market if they do not heed EU regulation, Europe’s industry chief Thierry Breton told German weekly Welt am Sonntag, as the European Commission finalizes rules on internet companies.  Breton will announce new draft rules known as the Digital Services Act and the Digital Markets Act together with European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager on Dec. 2.  The rules will set out a list of do’s and don’ts for gatekeepers – online companies with market power – forcing them to share data with rivals and regulators and not to promote their services and products unfairly.

Top EU antitrust official says won’t weaken merger rules due to COVID.  The European Union won’t weaken merger rules during the COVID-19 pandemic even if companies say they are likely to go bust without a deal, a senior EU antitrust official said on Wednesday.  European Commission Director General for Competition Olivier Guersent said he expected more companies to use the “failing firm defence” to try to justify mergers during the crisis.  But he said regulators didn’t see the need to relax rules.  “Why should we?  What’s the rationale for that?  Which criteria should we relax?”  Guersent told an American Chamber of Commerce EU online event.

Edited by Gary J. Malone

Tagged in: Antitrust Enforcement, Antitrust Litigation, International Competition Issues,