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The Antitrust Week In Review

Posted  March 22, 2021

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

U.S. Justice Department probing Visa over debit practices.  The Justice Department is looking at Visa Inc’s debit practices, the company said on Friday, after reports the United States was investigating whether the credit card company uses anticompetitive practices in the debit-card market. “The U.S. Department of Justice has informed Visa of its plans to open an investigation into Visa’s U.S. debit practices,” the company said in a securities filing. “We have received a notice to preserve relevant documents related to the investigation.” The Justice Department is probing whether Visa uses anticompetitive practices in the debit-card market, a source familiar with the matter said on Friday. The Wall Street Journal, which first reported the news, said the Justice Department’s antitrust division was looking in to whether Visa limited merchants’ ability to route debit-card transactions over card networks that are often less expensive.

EU regulators team up with U.S. and UK on pharmaceutical mergers.  EU antitrust enforcers have teamed up with their U.S. and British counterparts to share expertise on how to examine mergers in the pharmaceutical industry amid concerns such deals could push up prices or hold back innovation. The COVID-19 pandemic and vaccine supply bottlenecks have spurred regulatory interest in the pharmaceutical industry which has seen a wave of consolidation in recent years. The European Commission said the working group, which was launched on Tuesday, included the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, the Canadian Competition Bureau, Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority and the U.S. Department of Justice. The group would “take stock of the lessons learned in recent years and explore new ways to foster vibrant competition to the benefit of citizens”, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said in a statement.

Apple gets boost in French privacy fight, but still faces probe.  Apple was given a boost on Wednesday as France’s antitrust watchdog rejected advertisers’ requests to suspend the iPhone maker’s upcoming privacy feature, but it still faces a probe into whether it unfairly favors its own products and services. Apple’s new ‘App Tracking Transparency’ feature allows users to block advertisers from tracking them across different applications. The U.S. tech giant says it defends data privacy rights, but it faces criticism from Facebook, app developers and startups whose business models rely on advertising tracking. French groups IAB France, MMAF, SRI and UDECAM complained to the French watchdog last year, saying the feature would not affect Apple’s ability to send targeted ads to users of its own iOS software without seeking their prior consent.

Edited by Gary J. Malone

Tagged in: Antitrust Enforcement, International Competition Issues,