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

On 26 November 2013, the German Federal Cartel Office (FCO) announced that it ended the probe into Amazon’s price parity policy (the “Policy”).  The Policy required that the price of an item offered by a retailer on Amazon’s online marketplace platform, Amazon Marketplace, should not be higher than the retailer’s lowest offer for that item

In February 2013, the German competition authority (Bundeskartellamt) launched a survey into Amazon.de’s price parity policy for its Marketplace platform.  (See our previous post.)  This policy requires that the price of each product that a retailer offers on Amazon.de should not be higher than the retailer’s lowest offer for that product through any other

By John Wileur and Miranda Cole

The European Commission published for consultation its proposal for revisions to the EU technology transfer competition regime yesterday.  The Commission is consulting on its proposals until 17 May 2013.

The EU’s approach to the application of competition law to technology transfer agreements is set out in two instruments, the technology transfer block exemption regulation (“TTBER”) and the accompanying guidelines (“Guidelines”).  The TTBER exempts certain types of agreements between entities with limited market power.  The Guidelines address the application of both the TTBER and EU competition law to technology transfer agreements that fall outside the “safe harbour” provided by the TTBER. 
Continue Reading European Commission Consults on Revised Competition Regime for Technology Transfer Agreements

The EU E-books antitrust probe is quasi-closed: the EU Commission announced yesterday that it accepted and made legally binding the commitments offered by Apple and four publishers to settle the investigation that was opened in December last year.

The Commission was investigating whether the publishers may have colluded, with Apple’s facilitation, to jointly switch from a wholesale model to an agency model with the same key terms for the distribution of e-books. These terms consisted in particular in an “unusual” retail price MFN clause, maximum retail price grids and a similar 30% commission to Apple.  The Commission had taken the preliminary view that the object of this concerted practice was to raise retail prices of e-books in the EEA or to prevent the emergence of lower prices in the EEA for e-books.
Continue Reading E-Books Pricing: The EU Antitrust Chapter Is About To Close

E-book pricing is under antitrust review on both sides of the Atlantic.  The U.S. Department of Justice filed suit against two publishers and Apple on 11 April 2012 in the Southern District of New York Federal Court, while settling with three other publishers (the settlement was approved by the court on 6 September 2012).  On the other side of the Atlantic, the European Commission concludes its market-test today of commitments offered by four publishers (Harper Collins, Holtzbrinck/Macmillan, Simon & Schuster and Hachette) and Apple to settle an investigation that was opened in December last year. 

The European Commission took the preliminary view that the publishers may have colluded, with Apple’s facilitation, to jointly switch from a wholesale model to an agency model with the same key terms for the distribution of e-books.  (The agency model shifts retail pricing authority to the publisher, with the retailer taking a commission on the retail price as the publisher’s agent).  The Commission’s preliminary view is that the object of this concerted practice was to raise retail prices of e-books in the EEA or to prevent the emergence of lower prices in the EEA for e-books.  
Continue Reading E-Books Pricing: Far from the End of the Story