The Ministry of Tourism recently proposed the introduction of minimum prices for sites categorised as 'accommodation places'. However, the Commission for Protection of Competition (CPC) opined on the proposal's compliance with competition rules. The CPC highlighted the fact that accommodation prices depend on many factors other than category, which makes it practically impossible to set a minimum price for a category that would be adequate in every case.
Since the start of 2018, following a period in which it focused on the persecution of cartels, the Administrative Council for Economic Defence (CADE) has directed more resources towards concluding pending abuse of dominance matters and occasionally launching new dominance cases. In so doing, the most pertinent question has become: how will CADE deal with dominance in future?
In recent years, there has been a selection of work-style reforms in Japan, as well as a general move away from lifetime employment and a welcoming of more diversified ways of working, such as self-employment. In this context, the Japan Fair Trade Commission recently published its Report of Study Group on Human Resource and Competition Policy. The report covers three substantive topics: concerted practices, unilateral conducts and undesirable activities.
The US Department of Justice Antitrust Division has further intensified its compliance focus by announcing the creation of the Office of Decree Enforcement, which will have the sole goal of ensuring compliance with, and enforcement of, Antitrust Division decrees. Firms that operate under existing decrees should stay ahead of any complaints of violation, as a newly energised and dedicated enforcement office will likely be investigating any claimed default.
Discriminatory pricing as an abuse is a little-deployed area of EU antitrust law and there has been no recent enforcement at the European Commission level. The few existing cases concern extreme facts, involving natural or statutory monopolies such as airports or copyright collecting societies. A recent European Court of Justice judgment offers welcome clarification of the case law. It starts with the premise that not all price differences are illegal.
A new bill has been proposed in the Oireachtas to grant the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC) civil enforcement powers. At present, where the CCPC identifies a suspected breach of competition law, it must petition the court to impose criminal penalties. Under the amendment bill, the CCPC would be empowered to levy administrative fines against firms or individuals for anti-competitive practices. This would bring Ireland into line with most other EU member states.
Continuing its slew of exemptions, the Ministry of Corporate Affairs has exempted all public sector oil and gas companies (created under the Petroleum Act 1934) from pre-merger scrutiny by the Competition Commission of India under Sections 5 and 6 of the Competition Act 2002. The exemption – which will be valid for five years from the date of the official Gazette notification – also extends to all wholly or partly owned subsidiaries of such companies.
According to press reports, the Antitrust Division of the Department of Justice (DOJ) is investigating several issues relating to the admission of students to institutions of higher learning. The DOJ expects institutions of higher learning to compete freely for students and faculty much as ordinary businesses compete for customers and employees. In today's high-enforcement environment, college and university counsel should be alert to Sherman Act pitfalls and seek antitrust counsel if close calls arise.
The Competition Board recently published its reasoned decision following a preliminary investigation into allegations that Jotun Boya Sanayi ve Ticaret AŞ had violated Article 4 of Law 4054 on the Protection of Competition. The allegations concerned claims that Jotun had determined the resale prices and sales conditions of authorised dealers and restricted their online sales through a prohibitive provision in its dealership agreements.
In 2017 the Competition Commission of India (CCI) found a prima facie case of abuse of a dominant position by the Haryana Urban Development Authority and sent the case to the director general for further investigation. Despite the Haryana Urban Development Authority Act and Regulations being the governing law in the case, the CCI opined that it would have jurisdiction to examine the matter in order to establish any anti-competitive conduct or practice under the Competition Act.
The Competition Commission of India (CCI) has re-imposed a penalty of Rs522.4 million on the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) for abuse of its dominant position in the market. The BCCI argued that it is a not-for-profit organisation established to promote cricket in India and does not engage in any kind of commercial activity with the aim of profiting. However, the CCI held that despite there being no profit motive, the BCCI should be considered an enterprise under the Competition Act.
In 2017 an additional merger threshold was implemented to catch cases that fall below existing turnover thresholds but where the consideration for the transaction exceeds a specified amount and the target is active in the relevant country to a significant extent. While the first cases and legal discussions have shown that there is considerable uncertainty regarding the application of this legislation, new draft guidelines have been published on the application of the new, quite difficult piece of legislation.
The International Trade Commission (ITC) has issued an opinion dismissing US Steel Corporation's antitrust claim made under Section 337 of the Tariff Act 1930 against several Chinese steel manufacturers and distributors, ruling that a complainant must show an antitrust injury even in a trade case. The case demonstrates that a complainant with a Section 337 antitrust claim before the ITC must satisfy the same antitrust pleading requirements that a plaintiff in a federal court is required to satisfy.
The Ministry of Commerce recently promulgated the Measures for the Review of Concentrations of Business Operators (revised draft) for consultation. However, the revised draft still lacks provisions on the shifting alliances concept. The relevant Anti-monopoly Law enforcement agencies should consider this concept in future, as acknowledging it at the legislative level will finally place China's antitrust system among those of the world's most advanced anti-monopoly jurisdictions.
The Danish Competition and Consumer Authority recently reported a case of bid rigging in the demolition industry to the State Prosecutor for Serious Economic and International Crime. Six companies and a number of executives from each company have now been charged. This is the first case in Denmark in which the defendants risk imprisonment due to the infringement of competition law. Prison sentences for such offences were introduced in 2013.
The Competition Commission of India recently initiated an investigation into Star India Pvt Ltd for an alleged violation of the Competition Act 2002 following claims filed by a private multi-system operator (MSO) engaged in cable TV distribution in the state of Kerala. The claimant alleged that Star India had engaged in anti-competitive behaviour and abused its dominant position by charging excessive licence fees compared with the fees that it had charged the claimant's competitors and other Kerala MSOs.
After two years of litigation, the First Collegiate Tribunal on Administrative Matters Specialised in Economic Competition, Broadcasting and Telecommunications has finally issued a final ruling acknowledging that the Federal Economic Competition Commission breached the attorney-client privilege principle during a dawn raid. The tribunal's ruling is relevant, as it demonstrates the possible outcomes of a violation of attorney-client privilege by the antitrust authorities.
The Competition Commission of India has directed the All India Film Employee Confederation and various regional associations to cease and desist anti-competitive conduct, including suspending work and boycotting film directors who engage artists from outside the associations. The order establishes the importance of maintaining competition in the marketplace even in matters concerning workers' rights, which are otherwise protected under the respective labour statutes.
Ireland has recently shown an increased interest in gun jumping, the prohibited practice of implementing a transaction without having first obtained merger control clearance. In February 2018 the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission confirmed that it had launched an investigation into suspected gun jumping by Armalou Holdings Limited of Lillis O'Donnell Motor Company Limited.
The Anti-monopoly Law enforcement agencies are increasingly investigating and finding fault with collective boycotts among competitors. As the presumption of illegality for collective boycotts requires a high level of compliance, businesses should be aware that although an independent decision not to deal with distributors or suppliers may not raise Anti-monopoly Law concerns, an agreement with competitors not to do so could raise such concerns.