Competition Outlook 2019

06.02.2019

With this newsletter, the Noerr Antitrust & Competition Group is delighted to provide you with an outlook on relevant topics which we expect to play an important role in German, European and international antitrust law discussions this year.

Topics such as Rethinking verticals on an EU level, Increasing importance of the prohibition on abusing a dominant market position in the digital economy – not only in Germany – and Increased focus on online players and other proposed legislative changes in Russia are only a few of the most important topics for 2019 which we would like to present to you below.

EU: Rethinking verticals?

The European Commission is currently reviewing if the so-called Vertical Block Exemption Regulation, which exempts certain categories of vertical agreements from the prohibition on anticompetitive conduct and which will expire on 31 May 2022, should lapse, be revised  or whether its duration should be prolonged. Read on

EU: Vehicle-generated data as an ‘essential facility’ and Patent Wars 2.0 – Connected cars in the sights of antitrust law?

Vehicle-generated data is extremely valuable and an important input factor for a wide variety of applications in downstream markets. But who is allowed to access the data, and on what conditions? It will be interesting to see whether the regulatory authorities will trust stakeholders to find an appropriate balance of interests within the scope and limits of the current legal framework or whether they will intervene in the still-young market by introducing sector-specific regulations on access conditions. Read on

EU: Industrial policy and antitrust law – A new chapter in an old story?

We expect further politicisation of antitrust law in 2019. Even in the past there were heated debates about whether antitrust law stands in the way of creating national champions. Today, however, national champions have become European or international champions. This is particularly evident in the planned merger of Siemens and Alstom, which is making huge waves especially in Germany and France. The Federal Minister for Economic Affairs and Energy, Peter Altmaier, said that we need international champions from Europe who are capable of competing worldwide. His French counterpart, Bruno Le Maire, was even more direct, saying that prohibiting the merger would be an economic and political mistake. Read on

Germany: Cartel damages litigation – A lively debate on the effects of the individual cartels is imminent

The near future will bring momentum into ongoing litigation for cartel damages and lively debates about the effects of individual cartels and the extent to which the parties must provide facts in such proceedings, and probably also the first decisions in this regard. In 2018, the Federal Court of Justice ruled on two important legal issues and set the tone: Read on

Germany: Consumer protection – The new field of antitrust enforcement?

Over the last few years, consumer protection has become a policy of greater importance in the context of antitrust law, in particular for the Federal Cartel Office. A legislative change in 2017 enabled the Federal Cartel Office to conduct sector inquiries where there is reasonable suspicion that consumer law provisions have been severely, constantly and/or repeatedly breached. During the last few years, the Federal Cartel Office has made use of these new powers and conducted sector inquiries in the areas of online comparison websites and smart TVs. B2C business models and consumer rights have also attracted the attention of the Federal Cartel Office in antitrust law proceedings, as shown by the investigation into Facebook, which deals with a potential infringement of the users’ data protection rights. Read on

Germany: Further legislative initiatives and measures

In addition to the greater emphasis on consumer protection, a number of other changes in German antitrust law are planned in the context of the forthcoming 10th amendment to the Act against Restraints of Competition, particularly in the area of the prohibition on abusing a dominant market position in digital business. There will be procedural improvements to accelerate these proceedings and improve the usability of interim measures. Read on

Germany: Increasing importance of the prohibition on abusing a dominant market position in the digital economy

In recent years, the competition authorities have been very active in prosecuting companies for abusive conduct in digital markets. The European Commission has imposed record fines on Intel, Qualcomm and Google, and the Federal Cartel Office is also currently investigating Facebook and Amazon in proceedings that have attracted much international attention. Read on

Romania: Romanian Competition Council catching up with the digital era

In 2018, the Romanian Competition Council started a project to implement an IT system based on a Big Data platform. The new IT system will allow for more efficient processing of evidence and high volumes of data and quicker identification of cartels, particularly in bids for public contracts. Read on

Russia: Increased focus on online players and other proposed legislative changes

The Russian Federal Antimonopoly Service is pursuing further amendments to the Russian Competition Act aiming to address issues arising due to the increased significance of internet-related business. Read on

Slovakia: New Slovak rules against large food retailers

The Slovak government has launched a series of controversial legislative initiatives against large – mostly foreign – food retail groups. 
After a bold statement by several members of the ruling coalition that large food retailers allegedly have a dominant position in the domestic Slovak market and that there is a need for a fair redistribution of the profits they make, the Slovak government decided to tackle the allegedly huge disparity in the food supply chain. Read on

Czech Republic: New guideline on fines – Tougher times ahead

In April 2018, the Czech competition authority adopted new guidelines on calculating fines for antitrust law infringements. These guidelines replace the previous guidelines on the topic dating back to 2006.
The reason for this change is that the CCA has been criticised for years for being too soft on culprits and imposing inadequate fines even in cases of serious breaches of antitrust law. Read on

Hungary: New foreign investment rules

On 1 January 2019, new legislation entered into force which set out significant restrictions on foreign investors intending to make direct or indirect investments in certain strategic sectors in Hungary. This will have an impact on a considerable number of transactions of ‘foreign investors’ in Hungary in the future. Read on

Any questions? Please contact: Dr. Fabian BadtkeDr. Alexander BirnstielHelge HeinrichDr. Sebastian Janka or Robert Pahlen
Practice Group: Kartellrecht