On Friday, April 22, 2022, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), which is part of the Department of Commerce, issued a request for comment (RFC) on the state of competition in the mobile app marketplace.  According to the RFC, the record developed will be used to inform the Biden Administration’s competition agenda, including a report on competition in the mobile app ecosystem.  Comments are due on May 23, 2022.

Continue Reading NTIA Seeks Comment on Competition in the Mobile App Marketplace

On the 10th October 2018, BEREC (the Body of European Regulators for Electronic Communications) launched its public consultation on the ‘Data Economy’. This comes at a time when different regulators are increasingly discussing the importance of big data, including the opportunities and risks that it brings about, how these may evolve, and how (and increasingly who should take the responsibility) to regulate. While the data protection and competition authorities have so far been most vocal in this deepening regulatory debate, the opening of this consultation represents a clear and decisive move by European telecom regulators to ‘throw their hat’ into the ring and get included in the discussion – and potentially future regulation – of Europe’s data economy.

All interested stakeholders, including public organisations, industry actors, consumers, associations, academics, financial advisers, and other stakeholders with expertise or interest in the data economy are strongly encouraged to have their say. BEREC’s consultation video can be accessed here, and the consultation is open until 21 November 2018.

Continue Reading IoT Update: BEREC launches public consultation on the ‘Data Economy’

On 9 July 2018, the Economic Affairs Committee of the European Parliament (the “EP”) published a study identifying potential competition law concerns in the financial technology (“FinTech”) sector (the “Study”).
Continue Reading The European Parliament publishes a study on financial technology and competition law

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 20 April 2015 the Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets (“ACM”) published new guidance regarding its enforcement priorities in relation to distribution agreements, noting that its enforcement efforts will be focused on agreements having the most significant impact on consumer welfare.  The 28-page document explains that before opening an investigation, the ACM will first

Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager announced today during a speech at the Bundeskartellamt (German Competition Authority) International Conference on Competition her intention to launch a sector inquiry in the e-commerce sector. The sector inquiry will be formally proposed to the Commission in May. Preliminary findings on the sector inquiry could be ready in mid-2016. Commissioner Vestager stressed:

It is high time to remove remaining barriers to e-commerce, which is a vital part of a true Digital Single Market in Europe. The envisaged sector inquiry will help the Commission to understand and tackle barriers to e-commerce to the benefit of European citizens and business.

Continue Reading EU Announces E-Commerce Sector Inquiry

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

The French Competition Authority (FCA) is currently investigating the mobile app market.  In the context of the publication of the 2012 Annual Report, FCA’s President Bruno Lasserre revealed that the authority is concerned about the current structure of the mobile app market, which operates in “silos”, i.e., ecosystems built on a smartphone/tablet OS

On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) approved the proposed merger of cellular service providers T-Mobile USA and MetroPCS.  In its written opinion and order, the FCC’s Wireless Bureau concluded that the proposed merger would benefit competition in the wireless market by, among other things, providing the combined company with greater spectrum resources for its LTE network.  The Bureau’s action underscores the value that federal policymakers place on maintaining four national carriers―an issue that came to the forefront when regulators rejected the bid of the 2nd-largest carrier, AT&T, to acquire T-Mobile in December 2011.

After reviewing the relevant product and geographic markets, the FCC observed that the merger of T-Mobile and MetroPCS could create limited competitive harms in a few local geographic markets.  However, those harms were outweighed by the public interest benefits likely to accrue from the merger, including “the expansion of the MetroPCS brand into new geographical markets, the development of a more robust, national network, improved quality of service,” and the strengthening of T-Mobile’s “ability to compete in the mobile broadband services market.”  The agency was persuaded that the merger would permit existing MetroPCS customers access to a larger network (and bring the MetroPCS brand to markets in which it does not currently compete).  The merger also would give T-Mobile customers better service quality — particularly in major metropolitan markets, where the combination of the T-Mobile and MetroPCS networks would bolster service in areas where the T-Mobile network was already at capacity. 
Continue Reading SpectrumWatch: FCC Approves T-Mobile/MetroPCS Merger, Citing Competitive Benefits

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