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Kevin Coates advises clients on critical antitrust matters drawing on his extensive public sector experience in the Directorate-General for Competition of the European Commission ("DG COMP"), most recently as Head of a Cartel Unit.

His practice has a particular focus on advising companies in the electronics, technology, software and e-commerce sectors.

Mr. Coates advises on all aspects of EU, UK and international competition law, including merger control, compliance, cartels and leniency, and abuse of dominance.

Mr. Coates served as Head of a Cartel Unit at the Directorate-General for Competition (“DG Comp”) at the European Commission between 2012 and 2016. Prior to this, he held several positions within DG Comp, over nearly 20 years in total, including advising the Director General of DG Comp on policy and communications issues, and overseeing competition cases in the telecoms and media sectors. While working for the Director General he was one of the team that produced the Guidance on Enforcement Priorities under Article 102.

He was also a visiting research fellow at NYU School of Law in 2009-2010.

Prior to joining DG Comp, he served as in-house Counsel at AOL Europe where he was responsible for antitrust and regulatory issues for AOL subsidiary companies in the UK, Germany, France and the Netherlands.

Mr. Coates is the author of “Competition Law and Regulation of Technology Markets” published by Oxford University Press in 2011.

Mr. Coates is co-chair of Covington’s Internet of Things (IoT) group, and leads the firm's Brexit Task Force.

On 16 July 2020, the European Commission (“Commission”) announced that it has launched an antitrust sector inquiry into “consumer-related products and services that are connected to a network and can be controlled at a distance, for example via a voice assistant or mobile device.

Commission Executive Vice President and Competition Commissioner Vestager said that “[t]he sector inquiry will cover products such as wearable devices (e.g. smart watches or fitness trackers) and connected consumer devices used in the smart home context, such as fridges, washing machines, smart TVs, smart speakers and lighting systems. The sector inquiry will also collect information about the services available via smart devices, such as music and video streaming services and about the voice assistants used to access them.” Connected cars are outside of the scope of the inquiry.
Continue Reading IoT Update: The European Commission launches an antitrust sector inquiry into the sector of Internet of Things for consumer-related devices and services

The UK Government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy has just released a 75-page Green Paper on Modernising Consumer Markets, setting out the Government’s main priorities for the digital economy in a post-Brexit Britain. The Green Paper reflects on the current state of consumer markets and regulation, and lays down the key challenges and opportunities which will be the focus of the UK’s regulatory and competitive framework going forward. This poses consultation questions to stakeholders on hot topics in digital markets, including questions on: the adequacy of the current competition rules and privacy protections, supporting consumer-friendly innovation, use of and access to big data, whether personalised pricing should be regulated, sufficiently protecting customers without stifling innovation, and alternative dispute resolution solutions.

It also includes various proposals to ensure new technology and data are used to benefit customers, strengthen national enforcement of consumer rights, modernise the approach taken by regulators, and improve consumers’ access to alternative dispute resolution services. In this Covington blog post, we explore some of the key messages and questions posed by the Green Paper.


Continue Reading The UK Government Seeks Views on the Regulation of Digital Markets for a Post-Brexit Great Britain

The UK House of Lords Select Committee on Communications has recently opened a Public Consultation on ‘The Regulation of the Internet’, with submissions being accepted until Friday 11 May. The Call for Evidence can be accessed here.

The nine questions posed are relatively broad in scope, including: whether there is a need to introduce

On 20 November, Covington hosted its webinar looking at developments in Net Neutrality and Zero-rating from both a US and a European perspective. Our presenters included ex-FCC Bureau Chief, Partner Matt DelNero from our DC office, and ex-DG Competition Head of Unit, Partner Kevin Coates and Senior Associate Siobhan Kahmann from our Brussels office. The

The UK’s competition regulator, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), has published a 349 page Final Report (combined with 5 Background Papers and a glossary) on its Market Study into what it refers to as Digital Comparison Tools (DCTs) – a term which includes price comparison websites, best buy tables, and other more automated services like matching services which analyse complex usage patterns, voice-based comparison tools, and reverse auction platforms. The CMA concluded that consumer experiences of these services were mostly positive, although there were concerns over:

  • Competition law implications of exclusive or preferential arrangements;
  • Data protection law and the use of personal data;
  • Consumer protection law and the transparency of arrangements between these sites and the services that they are comparing.


Continue Reading Price comparison websites: the UK’s CMA weighs in on the competition law, data protection and consumer protection requirements

On 14 September, the Court of Justice of the European Union provided detailed guidance on the concept of excessive pricing under Article 102 TFEU, in response to questions posed by the Latvian Supreme Court.

In Case C-177/16, the Latvian Supreme Court referred a number of questions to the Court of Justice of the European Union

In the context of its Digital Single Market (“DSM”) Strategy for the European Union (“EU”), the European Commission (“Commission”) published a proposal for an updated Audiovisual Media Services Directive (“AVMSD” or the “Directive”) on 25 May 2016 (the “Proposal”).  In its Communication on the DSM Strategy, the Commission indicated it would review the AVMSD “with a focus on its scope and on the nature of the rules applicable to all market players, in particular measures for the promotion of European works, and the rules on protection of minors and advertising rules.”

Despite a few novelties, the Proposal is generally less far-reaching than expected.  Vice President Ansip explained that, to offer the legal certainty companies need in the audiovisual sector, it is necessary to maintain “existing rules that work” while “deregulating where necessary for traditional sectors like broadcasting […] to improve user protection and to reach a level-playing field.”

The Proposal continues to seek to achieve minimum harmonisation, such that Member States may impose stricter rules (e.g., on advertising).  Therefore, there is no guarantee that the Commission’s aim to align the regimes applicable to all audiovisual media services and provide more flexibility to TV broadcasters will be fulfilled.


Continue Reading The European Commission’s Legislative Proposal on Audiovisual Media Services

In the context of its Digital Single Market (“DSM”) Strategy for the European Union (“EU”), the European Commission (“Commission”) published a Communication on Online Platforms and the Digital Single Market – Opportunities and Challenges for Europe (the “Communication”) on 25 May 2016.  The Communication sets out the Commission’s conclusions and proposals based on the Commission’s Consultation on the regulatory environment for platforms, online intermediaries, data and cloud computing and the collaborative economy (“Consultation”) of 24 September 2015 and a series of workshops and studies.  This note also addresses the Commission’s Communication relating to the collaborative economy published on 2 June 2016.

The Communication makes clear that the Commission will not make broad regulatory proposals encompassing all allegedly potentially problematic aspects of online platforms.  Instead, the Commission proposes a problem-driven approach, such that intervention is only triggered in specific circumstances.  As a result, the Communication provides a road map and some general principles that should guide future intervention.

This more cautious approach may reflect concerns raised by the Commission’s competition directorate, and others, about over-broad regulation in the absence of a clear problem.


Continue Reading The European Commission’s Approach to Online Platforms and the Collaborative Economy

On 25 May 2016, the European Commission (“Commission”) unveiled a package of measures in the context of its Digital Single Market (“DSM”) Strategy for the European Union (“EU”) that included four legislative proposals designed to boost e-commerce in the EU by tackling unjustified geo-blocking, cross-border parcel delivery, consumer protection and EU audiovisual rules.  The package also includes a communication on online platforms, commented here.

Overall the package is more cautious than might have been expected given some of the rhetoric a year or so ago.  The Commission appears to be concerned about interfering unduly with existing market structures and practices, and possibly also about the perpetually difficult interaction between intellectual property and competition law.

One consequence of the package may be that ongoing competition investigations and sector inquiries could have more impact on markets in the short-term than legislation.

Certain aspects of this package will be discussed in three separate notes.  This note focuses on the Commission’s legislative proposals on geo-blocking and other forms of discrimination based on customers’ nationality, place of residence or place of establishment within the internal market (the “Proposed Regulation”).  The second note addresses the Commission’s proposals relating to online platforms, and the third the Commission’s proposed revisions to the Audiovidual Media Services Directive (“AVMS”).


Continue Reading The European Commission’s Legislative Proposal on Unjustified Geo-Blocking