Competition




Senate Antitrust Hearing Scheduled
Americas

Reuters reports that the US Senate has scheduled its antitrust hearing over Google Inc’s (Google) alleged abuse of market power, titled: “The Power of Google: Serving Consumers or Threatening Competition?” for 21 September 2011. Reportedly, Google, who controls two-thirds of the global search market, is currently the subject of a Federal Trade Commission antitrust probe following accusations that the company has abused this market dominance.
Reuters: Senate panel schedules Google antitrust hearing (28 July 2011)
(Source: Reuters)


Antitrust Agreement to Increase Co-operation
Global

The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has announced the signing of an antitrust memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the FTC, the US Department of Justice and China’s three antitrust agencies, with the goal of promoting communication and cooperation between the two countries.
(27 July 2011)
(Source: FTC)


Czech Republic’s Largest Power Utility Company, CEZ, Investigated in Competition Probe
Global

European officials are alleging that the Czech Republic’s largest power utility company, CEZ, illegally obstructed rivals from entering the domestic wholesale electricity market. The company is alleged to have prevented competitors from accessing the transmission network, an abuse of its dominant market position, and may have also prevented its rivals from entering the local market. The key charge against CEZ is that it reserved transmission capacities on the electricity grid for its new natural gas-fueled plant in a speculative and unnecessary way in order to block access by rivals.
Financial Times: Brussels probes Czech power utility (15 July 2011)
(Source: Financial Times)


Preliminary Victory for Apple in Patent Breach Case
Global

Late last week, Apple scored a victory against rival HTC, as the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) ruled that HTC had breached two patents held by Apple. This is Apple’s first win in its legal action against cell phone manufacturers that use Google’s Android operating system. In addition to HTC, Apple has also recently filed complaints against Samsung. At the same time, Apple’s rival Microsoft has filed suit against other companies using Android, including Motorola. Complaints to the USITC from technology companies have become more commonplace because of the fast pace at which USITC comes to decisions.
Financial Times: Apple scores early patent victory (16 July 2011)
(Source: Financial Times)


Airport Sales Ordered for Greater Competition
Europe, Middle East and Africa

The UK Competition Commission has announced its final decision (19 July 2011) that BAA Airports Ltd (BAA) will be required to sell both Stansted, and either Glasgow or Edinburgh airports in order to increase competition in the sector. The sales process is expected to commence within three months, or sooner if BAA commits to acceptable undertakings. BAA Remedies Implementation Group chairperson Peter Freeman iterated that the “report has been challenged, reviewed and upheld and it is clear that the original decision to require BAA to divest three airports remains the right one for customers” and further that the Commission hopes “that the sales can now proceed without delay so that passengers and airlines can start to enjoy the benefits of greater competition”.
Further information from the Competition Commission
Competition Commission’s media release (19 July 2011)

BAA are “dismayed” with the decision, saying that the Commission “has not recognised that the world and BAA have changed”. BAA has further stated that the decision will “damage [the] company which is investing strongly in UK jobs and growth” and that it is now considering a “judicial review” in line with its responsibility to protect [shareholder interest]“.
BAA’s media release (19 July 2011)

Related news items:
The Independent: Lost appeal over airport sale clips BAA’s wings (20 July 2011)
The Independent: Ben Ross: Signs are that this decision is good news for travellers (20 July 2011)
(Source: Competition Commission; BAA; The Independent)